Milwaukee Brewers Game Observations: Struggles at The Bottom of The Order

Boris YovchevCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2009

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 13:  National League All-Star Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates with teammate Ryan Braun after winning the State Farm Home Run Derby at Busch Stadium on July 13, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As I was watching the second game of the Brewers series against the Cincinnati Reds last night, I thought about starting a sequence that will periodically present fans with notable observations I make during games.  

These columns are not intended as game reviews, especially since they will not necessarily be written after every game, but rather as an in-depth breakdown of the Brewers and some trends I notice during certain games, as well as how these trends affect the team.  

The topic for this first edition of the sequence is not a new trend and most fans following the team on a regular basis are well aware of it.

The Brewers have had a very imbalanced offense where the top of the order has produced on a regular basis but the bottom of the order has struggled. Add to that the nightmare that is pinch hitting and you have a number of almost guaranteed outs in a row at the bottom half of the order.

A great example of that is what happened at the top of the third inning last night.

The inning started with Jeff Suppan at the plate. The Brewers pitcher struck out, Counsell followed with a single and Mike Cameron also struck out. Ryan Braun stepped up to the plate hoping to break out of his recent slump and he lined a double to deep left that put Counsell at third.  

With two outs already recorded in the inning, Bronson Arroyo wisely decided to walk Prince Fielder to load the bases.

Mat Gamel was next in line and as generally has been the case for players at the bottom half of the order he missed the opportunity to put the Brewers on the board by recording a fly out to left.

The argument here is not that most pitchers would not have walked Prince Fielder at the situation described above.  

Indeed, if you are a pitcher you should know that there is no one more dangerous at the plate for Milwaukee this year other than Prince.

The problem is that players following Braun and Prince in the lineup have consistently been presented with opportunities to bat runs in and they have consistently missed those opportunities opening a visible void between the quality of at-bats taken at the top compared to those at the bottom of the order.

The fact that Mike Cameron was moved to bat second suggests that Ken Macha is aware of the problem and is looking for ways to remedy the situation. Maybe he is hoping that if Cameron bats second he will start getting more quality at-bats and will heat up enough that once moved back to the bottom of the order he can deliver big hits to balance the offense out. Or maybe Macha plans to play Casey McGehee further down keeping Cameron ahead of Braun.

With his consistent display this season McGehee has become one of the cornerstones of the offense, even if he bats for average more than for power.

And the Brewers need to find a solution to the pinch hitting nightmares that are occurring this year. The prolonged slump of Hall and the injury of Weeks placed Counsell and McGehee on the every day lineup and opened up another major void, this time on the bench.

The Gwynn for Gerut experiment never panned out with the newly acquired outfielder batting for an average worse than that of a third of the pitching staff. Frank Catalanotto has done a good job recently but he needs to prove he can get hits off the bench in a consistent manner.

Many fans often wonder why Escobar is not brought up to help the team off the bench or even as a starter for the underperforming Hardy.

The reality is that Melvin and Macha are not going to bring up their shortstop of the future to have him be a bench player or to be platooned with someone else. This is one of the most important years for Escobar in terms of growth and he needs regular at-bats and reps in the middle of the infield to become the player that the Brewers are hoping he can be.

Cain is another future prospect in the minors but he just returned from a prolonged injury. But Macha needs to find an answer to the problem and fast because with the bench and the bottom of the order performing the way they have been all season, the Brewers are not going anywhere, even if the pitching is consistently good.