Going forward, I’m planning on using this space to pick a “Game of the Week” to recap, hopefully finding games with moments that point towards trends for the regular season. Obviously, the only game I have to go with this week is last night’s home opener. During the week, I was hoping to see a game that might be a microcosm of how I expect the Brewers to perform this season. Something like a 5-2 win with a Braun homer and a solid 7 innings from Gallardo.
Of course none of us wants last night’s game to be a microcosm of the Brewers’ season, and I don’t think it will be. Unlike Milwaukee pitching staffs of yore, we should not be fearful of the team giving up 11 runs every game. That said, there are still some things I think are worth keeping an eye on, and I have a few thoughts about these below.
-Last Saturday, I argued for the inclusion of Brooks Conrad on the bench because the Crew needs a right-handed threat for pinch-hitting situations. They ended up passing him over for Travis Ishikawa, a move I find frankly puzzling. Today, Ron Roenicke had to send up left-handed hitting Norichika Aoki to hit against left-handed throwing Jaime Garcia in the bottom of the 5th, with runners on the corners and none out. The score was only 6-2 at that point, so the game was still very much winnable. Unfortunately, Aoki whiffed, and the team went on to not score any runs. Garcia hasn’t displayed a huge platoon split in his career, but he has been worse at striking out right-handed hitters in his career, which is obviously relevant with a runner on 3rd and none out. Not having a legitimate right-handed pinch hitting threat off the bench could hurt the Brewers going forward. That said, it’s not a situation that I expect to last very long. Hopefully Doug can fix this sooner rather than later.
-Ryan Braun went 0-for-5, which undoubtedly some columnist somewhere is going to conclude was obviously because he’s a cheater who can’t live with his conscious after getting off on a technicality, or something stupid like that. In reality, as many people have pointed out, Braun hit two balls hard today, and was robbed of extra bases by a sliding Jon Jay catch. I think Ryan Braun is an extremely mentally tough player, and I don’t think he’ll let negativity in the press and from opposing fans affect his game. That said, there will be negativity in the press, and if he has a few more games like this, a narrative will start to form, in which case it’s important to keep this in mind: Braun was only a few feet from going 2-for-5 with a double today. If his first liner goes just to the right or left of Furcal, and if his second shot is just a few more feet away from Jay, he’s starting the season .400/.400/.800 with an RBI, instead of hitless. So many times a narrative is built on just a few feet like those that either were or weren’t there. That should tell you exactly how valuable those narratives are.
–This is why I’m on Team Κοτταράς. I love have a guy in the backup catcher position who can come off the bench and put a charge into a ball like that. Hopefully we’ll see many more blasts like that from him in the games to come.
-Not a Brewers note, but I noticed watching the St. Louis-Miami game on Wednesday that so much of it seemed to turn on outfield defense, specifically that the Cardinals’ was quite good and the Marlins’ decidedly wasn’t. Yesterday, again the Cardinals’ D seemed very solid. They have two very capable corner outfielders in Holliday and Beltran, and if Jay can keeping making big catches, outfield defense could turn into a real strength for them, making an already dangerous team even more dangerous. Make no mistake, if the Brewers can beat out the Cards for the NL Central title this year, they’ll have earned it.
Hopefully I’ll be able to write about more optimistic trends going forward. In other news, I can’t wait for Zack Greinke to take the mound this afternoon. I think he’ll have a day that should wash out the taste of yesterday’s game.