If you’re like me, you’ve seen a lot of people freaking out about this Brewers slump in recent days. You’ve also got long skinny toes that you can use to pick up clothes and stuff. I mean, not food stuff, but just stuff in general that isn’t gross to pick up with your feet. Maybe a dog toy.
I understand the frustration. The team hasn’t been firing on any cylinders. The hitting has been as absent as comedy at a Carrot Top show, the bullpen’s ERA has ballooned quicker than Carrot Top’s biceps, and the starting staff has been… I don’t know, something about Carrot Top and steroids or props or whatever. But then, just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse, they have one of those gut-wrenching games where their WPA plummets faster than Carrot Top’s career trajectory. A frustrating, late-inning loss really is the icing on the proverbial meat cake here.
With that, I’ll say here what I keep yapping about on Twitter: The sky is not falling.
First of all, although the team’s playing like garbage, they’re still in first place. True-talent-wise, I view this roster as an above average team with very good pitching and average, maybe slightly above-average hitting. The holes are obvious. Their bench is week. They lack left-handed bats. The have a 24-man roster due to Wei-Chung Wang’s continued attendance.
Secondly, the bullpen looks exhausted, but help is on the way. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough. A week or so of rest could do wonders for Will Smith and Brandon Kintzler. Henderson is nearly ready to return, and Thornburg is throwing again. On top of that, the team is likely going to fill any remaining bullpen holes through trades.The important thing is that the main pieces are in place.
The next, and possibly biggest reason not to fret is that they’re healthy. People can’t seem to stop complaining that Jimmy Nelson has yet to take Estrada’s spot in the rotation, and I suppose I can’t say I blame them. You know what, though? At least Nelson didn’t get forced into the rotation because Kyle Lohse needed Tommy John surgery, or something of that sort. The Brewers have made it to the All-Star break (3 games left, knock on wood) with their original starting five still in tact. Offensively, while they’ve had Braun and Gomez miss some time here and there, Aramis Ramirez has had the only truly extended absence.
If we look at our competition in the NL Central, we see some major injuries. The Cards just put Molina on the disabled list for 2-3 months with a thumb injury. Before that, however, they may have suffered an even more important loss in young starter, Michael Wacha. Wacha has a stress reaction in his scapula, that could turn into a stress fracture if the team is not careful. It’s an extremely rare injury by baseball standards, and while he might only miss a few more weeks, it could most definitely become a recurring issue.
Meanwhile, the Reds have just placed Brandon Philips on the disabled list with an injury similar to Yadi’s. More importantly, though, Joey Votto is back on the DL. He was never really fully recovered from his “quad strain,” which is probably more of a tendon issue that he’s going to have to deal with for the rest of his career than a pulled muscle as the name would indicate. The Reds are a still a decent team without Votto, but they are certainly not a legitimate contender.
The Pirates just put Gerrit Cole back on the DL with a strained lat. It’s nothing too serious long-term, but it’s still an injury to their best pitcher. They’re also still the Pirates, which doesn’t help their cause.
I guess what I’m saying is that, while the individual games may be frustrating, it helps to take a step back and look at where the team stands in the grander scheme of things. The obvious answer is “1st place,” but when we dig a little bit deeper, past the carroty top, we find that the state of the Brewers is pretty damn solid right now.