When you do a series like Playing Pepper long enough, you get to know some of the bloggers and, as such, you realize that when your teams play each other, it's a great chance for some varied content. Old-time readers of this blog will remember that when the Cards and Astros would get together, James at Astros County
and I would usually try to do something, whether it was writing for the other blog or answering questions.
Sadly, Houston is no longer with us. Oh, they will tell you that they just "moved to the American League" but we all know that's just a euphemism, like taking your dog to the farm. With the Astros hopefully resting in peace, we're going to hopefully take that interaction and move it to another team.
Nick from The Brewers Bar
posed a few questions to me about this Cardinals/Brewers series that starts this evening and I returned the favor. You'll find my answers over at his site this afternoon, but until then, enjoy the insight from the opposition about this weekend!
C70: What's going on with the Brewer bullpen? If there's a lead in the seventh, what's the progression plan for the Brewers?
BB: The Brewers bullpen is the Brewers bullpen. The Brewers have had trouble for years trying to establish a reliable group of relievers and most of the time it doesn't work out well. They've gone through so many closers in recent years (Derek Turnblow, Eric Gagne, Trevor Hoffman, Solomon Torres, etc.), it's ridiculous. 2011 was really an anomaly. The Brewers front office has failed to find the right mix...or the guys have just not performed on the field. Sadly, this year has started out with the Mr. Hyde part of the bullpen showing its ugly mug. John Axford has been shaky at best, but I also don't understand why manager Ron Roenicke has been using him so often and for more than one inning at a time, AND in non-save situations even when he was still the closer. The rest of the bullpen has been spotty as well. Newcomer and ex-Nationals pitcher Michael Gonzalez has been bad, but again, I fell he's been misused by Roenicke. Basically when the guy who was supposed to be your closer has an ERA over 24.00, you're in a lot of trouble. A blown lead by the bullpen is probably the worst way to lose in baseball, and when the bullpen situation has fans guessing about the manager's competence, it's a festering wound. Going forward it's hard to tell what the plan is, other than maybe tinkering to see who can be the most consistent in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. Whatever happens, I don't think Brewers fans' collective sanity can withstand another bullpen debacle a la 2012.
C70: How's Ryan Braun? I know he dealt with some nagging injuries earlier in the week. Stats don't seem to show it's bothered him, though.
BB: As for Ryan Braun, it was definitely rough having him miss some games vs. the Diamondbacks with a stiff neck and whatever else, but I guess as long as he heals up so that he can play the majority of the year, no biggie. Braun misses games from time to time but overall seems to play most of the time whether he's hurting or not. He seems a little rusty at the plate but I expect him to heat up. He's the team leader and they need his offense sorely. It's clear that without Braun this team can't put enough runs on the board most of the time.
C70: Is this a small sample size or are the Brewers likely to be this bad for an extended period of time?
BB: It's really, really hard to say. I think most realistic Brewers fans knew this team could be a train wreck if things didn't fall their way, and we're seeing that side of the team so far. The Brewers don't often seem to start off the first few weeks of the season well. The question will be how they rebound from this. They've played some teams with some real firepower (Rockies, D-backs) and couldn't hang. They need to get the offense rolling to compete; it was one of the top offenses in MLB last year. They are depending on simply outslugging opponents. Unless the pitching can correct itself, I'm afraid the Brewers are capable of being even worse than they've been so far.
C70: What are your initial impressions of our old friend Kyle Lohse?
BB: Kyle Lohse has been pretty good. I've enjoyed watching him so far in that he's very self-contained and clearly knows what he's doing on the mound. I saw him some with the Twins way back in the day and then of course with St. Louis. Compared to his Twins days, I think Lohse has really matured and figured out what he needs to do to get outs and keep the team in the game. Considering how weak the Brewers rotation would be without him, I'm happy to have him on board but of course the fat contract and the loss of a draft pick was a bitter pill to swallow to acquire him. I lobbied all offseason for the Brewers to bring in SOMEONE with significant MLB experience to mentor their young guys. Everyone was so hopeful for the young dudes and all their potential (Mark Rogers, Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, and others), but there was no backup plan in case things didn't work out. As a Brewers fan it's hard not to think the front office is sort of eyeing 2014 rather than this year for a real playoff push. They would vehemently deny that, though. The Brewers need to keep the fans happy.
C70: How much is the loss of Aramis Ramirez going to hurt the team in the short-term?
BB: The loss of Aramis Ramirez (and hopefully it's very short term) is rough. Ramirez has infamously started slowly out of the gate in terms of hitting over the years but he was doing pretty well this year, and then of course was among the injured for the Brewers. I was doubtful about him until about June last year; then I started seeing that he really does put up the big numbers. He hit .300 last year, had 27 homers, 50 doubles and 105 RBI. He's absolutely crucial. We need him to come back and once again be the cleanup hitter who made us forget about Prince Fielder.
C70: What are your predictions about this weekend's series?
BB: For this weekend, I hate to say it but I think we're looking at a Cardinals sweep or at least two out of three against Milwaukee. This series at least features some of the better starting pitching the Brewers offer, but having to face Wainwright and Garcia is never fun. I'm sure this Miller kid will be no treat either. The Brewers haven't played particularly well in St. Louis over the years and I'm thinking they'll be lucky to get out of Busch with one victory. I hope I'm wrong! The Brewers could use some of the sunny side of life (and baseball).
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