Yesterday, the Journal Sentinel ran a story on the struggles of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. It was a timely article, given that Milwaukee scored just two runs in its three-game series with the Houston Astros over the weekend. Braun went 2 for 10 and Fielder 3 for 12. Much of the article focused on the thoughts of hitting coach, Dale Sveum.* Sveum had a lot of interesting things to say. It reminded me how truly difficult hitting a baseball can be. You have to show patience on bad pitches but be aggressive when the pitchers throw strikes. If you’re not seeing the ball, you’re in trouble. If you’re not confident, pressing or trying too hard, you’re less likely to be successful. [At the beginning of Braun’s struggles, they showed him the dugout putting drops in his eyes one night. I wondered then, as I do now, what was going on. Did he just have dry eyes that night or can he literally not see?]
After noting that Casey McGehee’s numbers were down over the last two months as well (.223 BA with three homers and nine RBI in June and .266 with two homers and eight RBI in July), Sveum said, “It's been surprising that our offense has somewhat kept its head above water the last 2 ½ months, when you consider that.”
Consider that in 2009, the Brewers had three regulars finish the season batting .300 or higher, with Prince finishing at .299. (Braun .320, Lopez .320, McGehee .301) (I know that 2010 is not over but I was too lazy to get the 2009 stats through 107 games.) Presently, Corey Hart leads the Brewers with a .294 average (Braun is at .281, Weeks .274, Prince .267). There is a similar drop in OPS. In 2009, Prince had an amazing 1.014 OPS, followed by Braun’s .937, Lopez at .855 and McGehee at .859. In 2010, Hart leads the club at .917, Prince follows at .899, with Weeks at .858, and Braun at .797. (Edmonds is at .859 in limited time.)
But, baseball is a funny game—or the Cubs pitching really sucks—because the Brewers pounded out 26 hits and scored 18 runs on Monday night. Braun and Fielder each went 5 for 7. How crazy has this season been for the Brewers? According to the JS, Milwaukee has scored 25.5% of its runs (506) in nine games, which account for 129 runs. The Brewers have also been shut out 10 times.
I should have known it was going to be a strange day when news came that the Brewers had signed Corey Hart to a three-year deal. The Brewers were kind enough to send the announcement to my work e-mail. (Details of the deal came later: $1 million signing bonus and the following salaries: $6.5 million in 2011, $9 million in 2012 and $10 million in 2013.) I was surprised. I thought Hart was a player that Milwaukee would happily deal for pitching. Maybe this will be easier now that he is signed for three years? They couldn’t trade him because of the wrist injury so they signed him to make him more attractive? (He cut the beard, too.) The alternative is that he’s going to be a Brewer for a while. Stay hot, Corey Hart. Like for three years.
Brewers 18, Cubs 1
Game played 8-3-10
*When I was younger, I wrote Dale Sveum a letter alerting him to the fact that in the two weeks after I went to one of the Brewers games at the Dome, he was batting about .426. I offered to go to more games if he ever felt like he was in a slump. I never got a response.