Thirty-two games into the 2008 season and the Milwaukee Brewers have already dug themselves a big hole.
They sit at .500 with a record of 16-16—A place where nobody expected them to be. Especially not in May.
There are many reasons why Milwaukee has struggled this year, and the bullpen really isn't one of them.
The bullpen by far was the weakest link last year. Things have changed and the relief pitchers have done their jobs in '08, albeit it happens more in losses now.
The biggest problem the Brewers have this year is not be able to put runs on the board consistently. They have lost four straight games as of May 6, and I don't know how long the streak will continue.
As a die-hard Brewers fan, this is tough to stomach because I've seen it time and time again. Over the past couple of years, the team has looked to have been on the rise. They finally finished a season above .500 last year (first since 1992) and were knocking on October's door.
This year looks completely different. Hitters are getting on base, but the problem is that no one seems capable of driving them in. You can't win if you don't score runs.
2007 Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun is only hitting .268 with an OBP of .304. He also has 28 strikeouts while drawing only seven walks. Braun thinks that he can hit anything out of the park. That's only true when he's patient.
Leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks is hitting below the Mendoza Line (sub .200 for all you non-baseball fans). He does have 19 walks, but again, he can't score because no one is hitting behind him.
Everybody is striking out way too much, which puts hitting coach Jim Skaalen on the hot seat. But it shouldn't because "Ski" is doing everything but actually stepping in the batter's box for them.
As a team, the Brewers have 215 strikeouts and only 109 walks. They are hitting at a .246 clip. One out of four may cut it as an individual, but not as a whole.
I mentioned that the bullpen has been doing its job, but on the other side, the starters are the ones struggling. The 4.60 ERA is deceiving because four out of the five starters have an ERA above five.
The Brewers started the year with seven or eight quality starters. Then Chris Capuano went down and needs another Tommy Johns surgery. Then they up and released Claudio Vargas, and now Gallardo is hurt. That leaves Milwaukee pretty thin in the rotation.
Yovani Gallardo is done for the season after tearing his ACL, which leaves Ben Sheets as the only one who is capable of winning games for them. Sheets is 4-0 with a 2.29 ERA. I'm sorry, but winning every fifth day will not allow a team to play in October, or even September for that matter.
Another pitcher that has been impressive is reliever Mitch Stetter, who has saved the starters numerous times. He is a lefty who can pitch to anybody and get strikeouts, too.
The biggest problem (Derrick Turnbow) is gone, but this team continues to struggle.
Brewers fans have been in this situation before, and they don't like this feeling of "here we go again". It leaves them questioning who is actually worthy of staying on this team.
GM Doug Melvin revamped the bullpen in the offseason, but he will need to revamp the rotation before the trade deadline. That means adding more than just Jeff Weaver. He may have to part ways with some fan favorites.
I thought Mike Cameron and Jason Kendall were going to be the veterans to provide the leadership that was lacking in 2007, but obviously I was wrong.
Jeff Suppan is definitely not pitching like he's worth $12 million a year, either.
If this team doesn't do something drastic (and quickly), some Brewers fans, myself included, will wonder if they will ever see a World Series for this team.