After a disappointing four-game split with the Cubs at Wrigley, the Brewers went out to LA and promptly swept the Dodgers. The Crew won games started by both Zack Greinke and Clay Kershaw in the process, thanks in large part to some very good pitching from starters Jimmy Nelson and Yovani Gallardo. On Sunday, it was the offense’s turn to take charge early, scoring five runs in the first two innings, all driven in by catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
The sweep sends the Brewers into their off day Monday 15 games over .500 for the first time since July sixth. Late on Saturday, the always interesting Dayn Perry declared the Crew in the race to stay. Among lots of interesting tidbits about the team was this note that stood out particularly:
On another level, as much as it might feel like the Brewers are still living off their 20-8 record coming out of April, there’s this uncooperative fact: In the first half, the Brewers played .552 ball with a +17 run differential, and in the second half they’re playing .571 ball with a +22 run differential. So, no, that’s not a team bouyed by nothing more than an aberrantly hot start. That’s a legitimately good team.
After the 7-2 win on Sunday, the Brewers second half winning percent moved to .586 behind a +27 run differential. Yet, the narrative that the team wouldn’t be anywhere without the hot start persists, much like all of the “without May” nonsense that dominated the discussion of the team in 2013. Just because the team happened to have it’s hottest run of the year (at least to now) right at the very beginning where it could easily be isolated for the purposes of nay-saying doesn’t make it aberrational or otherwise special.
Everyone remember how hard the Brewers’ August schedule was supposed to be? Six games each against the two best teams in the NL West, the Dodgers and Giants! Three games each against the Cardinals and Pirates! Two separate trips to the west coast!
All the Brewers have done so far in August is go 10-6 overall, including taking five of six from the Dodgers and two of three from the Giants. They’ve won games started by Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke (twice!). They’ve done so despite losing Matt Garza, their biggest acquisition of the off season, to injury while giving up a winnable game in the process. They’ve also accomplished this with Ryan Braun, their franchise player, mired in a major slump most of the month.
Given their success against tough competition (both in August and April), perhaps it isn’t the greatest news in the world that the schedule gets easier from here on in, at least purely in terms of who they play, but that is what happens. Jeff Passan broke down the remaining schedules of all the remaining contenders and found that the Brewers sit in the middle of the pack. They do have to deal with two separate three-city road trips, but they also have lots of off days and their opponents have a collective .498 winning percentage.
Interesting Weekend Broadcasts
Hopefully you caught at least a little bit of both the TV and the radio broadcasts. Due to Bob Uecker‘s limited travel schedule and Bill Schroeder‘s injury, the Brewers turned to sometime on air personality Craig Counsell to cover on the TV side and assistant general manager Gord Ash worked on the radio. Both brought welcomed new perspectives to the proceedings, with Ash shining in particular.
Gord Ash says #Brewers work with their own variation of WAR in evaluating players.
— Jordan Schelling (@jordanschelling) August 17, 2014
This was just one example of “peek behind the curtain” information that Ash dropped into the conversation over the weekend. Regular radio man Joe Block is no stranger to the analytical side of the game, and he repeatedly set Ash up to make interesting points and asked good follow-up questions.
Ramirez Contract Situation
One of the more commonly asked questions I’ve seen relating to what the Brewers might do in 2015 is whether or not they’ll elect to pick up a couple of big team options they have for two very important players: Yovani Gallardo and Aramis Ramirez. Gallardo’s option is a pretty simple and straight forward one, $13 million with a $600 thousand buyout should they elect not to bring him back, something that looks incredibly unlikely at this point. Gallardo currently sports the lowest ERA of the starting staff and is only 28 years old. That’s a hard combination to compete with when talking about a mere one year deal.
Ramirez’s deal is more complex. The option is for $14 million, which is far from outrageous for his current level of production and taking into account that they really don’t have any other in-house options that make any sense at all at this point. It gets even easier to pick up when one looks at the buyout which calls for $4 million to be paid to Ramirez should they decline. That’s a really large buyout, and it essentially makes the option a $10 million dollar decision rather than $14 million, because they’re paying $4 million whether or not they bring him back.
Might there be a better way than paying Ramirez the full $14 million next year, though? Perhaps.
Ramirez told Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt that he wants to play two more seasons. If he’s indeed interested in sticking around for two more seasons and the Brewers are confident that he can handle it physically, they might be able to work out a deal that takes into account the declined option (with $2 million due each of the next two Decembers). If they were to offer him a few extra million over the next two seasons, say six or seven million each year on top of the four already owed, it seems like it could be a way to get some savings on that big number for 2015. If they do that, it would probably be worth having at least a short conversation about the idea of potentially playing some first base over the life of that contract.
Either way they end up going, these are the sorts of good problems teams don’t mind grappling with.