The Milwaukee Brewers begin the second half of their season tonight in Cincinnati to start a four-game, weekend series against the Reds. They currently sit in second place of the NL Central with a record of 45-43, two-and-a-half games behind first place St. Louis.
With two weeks until the trade deadline, the Brewers need to get on a bit of a hot streak. If they don't, Doug Melvin will have no motivation to mortgage a bit of the future for a return trip to the playoffs in 2009.
The Brewers got off to a great start, having the best record in franchise history after 50 games, with a record of 30-20. Since that time, the wheels have fallen off due to ineffectiveness and injury.
The Brewers have gone 15-23, and they look like an average team at best. When they get good starting pitching, the offense stalls. When the offense produces, the starting pitching either falters or the bullpen has blown a lead.
Yovani Gallardo needs to continue to pitch the way he did for much of the first half. The offense needs to pick him up though. In his last three starts, the Brewers have given Gallardo zero runs up on the scoreboard. No pitcher can win without run support and the offense is too good to throw up goose eggs on a regular basis.
The rest of the pitching staff has been inconsistent, but if Manny Parra can rebound from a bad first half, that will solve many of their issues. A trade for a starter is still the likely move for Doug Melvin to upgrade the team.
The offense has been too up-and-down for much of the season for a typical playoff team. Outside of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, no player has stepped up behind them to give the team a third threat at the plate.
If another player doesn't step up, opposing teams will just pitch around Braun and Fielder until someone proves they can do the job as well.
A regular leadoff hitter will also go a long way for the Brewers. The rotation of Corey Hart, Jason Kendall, and Corey Hart has yet to provide any spark at the top of the order.
The Brewers, as they are currently assembled and playing, have too many questions to make it back to the playoffs. Fortunately, they are young and talented enough to make all the headaches of the first half only a distant memory.