Sunday, April 3, 2011

You say 'cause for concern'. I say 'area for improvement'.

The Brewers opened the 2011 season with three straight losses to defending NL Central champ, Cincinnati. The opener featured a ninth inning meltdown as the Reds rallied from a 6-3 deficit to win 7-6 on a walk-off home run. On Saturday night, the Reds led from start to finish behind the strong pitching of Travis Wood. The series was capped off with a 12-3 blowout, with the Reds collecting 19 hits in just eight innings.

Rickie Weeks called the sweep, “a wake-up call” but said that it was just part of the game and that the Brewers would get better. Here are some thoughts on those potential areas of improvement.

= Yuniesky Betancourt went 0-11 with one strikeout. In those 11 at-bats, he saw just 32 pitches. He also committed an error on Sunday. The acquisition of Betancourt was easily one of the off-season’s most controversial moves. Doug Melvin said that getting Betancourt was key to the Greinke trade and that he didn’t “know how [stat guys] can say he’s the worst player in baseball.” Well, Doug, let me tell you something about those stat guys—they’re pretty smart. I don’t expect Betancourt to go hitless for the entire season but this start doesn’t leave me feeling overly optimistic. We may find out how many innings you can get out of a 40-year-old shortstop.

= The good folks over at Brew Crew Ball have christened Mark Kotsay, Kotsucker. Again, no one in the blogosphere could quite figure out why he was signed. His 0-7 start seems to justify this criticism. With Kotsay, Betancourt and Wil Nieves/George Kottaras, filling the 6-7-8 spots in the line-up, I don’t think the bottom part of the line-up is striking fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. The return of Corey Hart should help. I hope the return of Jonathan Lucroy helps as well.

= Carlos Gomez’s approach to hitting seems unchanged. In Sunday’s game, Brian Anderson said that he really liked Gomez’s approach against Francisco Cordero in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. Anderson said that Gomez was just trying to make contact and go with the pitch. For most of the weekend, Gomez swung for the fences. He went 2-12 with one home run and four strikeouts. At this point, I don’t think he is going to be successful if he doesn’t make some consistent changes to his approach. Surely, I can’t be the only one that thinks this. Has no one told him this or is Gomez not capable of making a change to his approach?

= Cincinnati is gifted defensively. Milwaukee is not. Defense may have cost them Thursday night’s game. That Milwaukee is not a great defensive team is not a surprise. This weekend’s series made me wonder how much better our hitting and pitching will need to be if the Brewers are an average to below average fielding team.

= Part of the belief that the Brewers would win more games in 2011 was the underlying belief that the starting pitching would be much better. And part of that belief had to be based on the anticipation that existing members of the staff, like Randy Wolf, would be better. We’re only three games in so I’m not going to rush to judgment here. Hopefully Shaun Marcum was a little rusty after missing some time in spring training and Randy Wolf will find his groove/pace/aggressiveness [or whatever he attributed his turnaround to last year].  

I’ll revisit these areas at the end of April.

Reds 4, Brewers 2
Game played 4-2-11

Reds 12, Brewers 3
Game played 4-3-11

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