Much has been made of Milwaukee's lack of pitching and depth in the bullpen (it's Hoffman, Hawkins, then everyone else..), but there are some performances that should not go without praise in the early going this season.
Starting today, (April 18th) I will begin a bi-weekly series of stock up/down articles summarizing the Brewers' top performers in both the batters box and on the pitching mound, also including a rundown of players struggling as of late.
So, without much further ado, let's begin the way-too-early-to-mean-anything-by-September hasty generalizations!
Stock Up: Ryan Braun, Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks
Who is hotter at the plate for Milwaukee than Casey McGehee and Ryan Braun ? After McGehee's sensational rookie season, leading NL rookies in both homers and RBI, some analysts had predicted a downturn for the former Cub, but he's shown his approach at the plate from last year hasn't changed a bit.
Not one to be cheated, McGehee has been selective. Attacking the ball like Chris Brown beat Rihanna, he's hitting for power (4 home runs, leading the team) and has gotten on base consistently with a .410 OBP and .333 batting average.
Ryan Braun, the perennial All-Star in left field for the Brewers, has continued his success against righties, killing the ball for a .393 BA, and 3 home runs. His stellar performance at the plate over the last seven days (3 HR, .348 BA, 9 RBI) has carried the Brewers, along with the oft-injured Rickie Weeks , who is trying to finally put together a full season of work.
Weeks is leading the lineup in on-base percentage, (.488) and trying to continue where he left off last season before a wrist injury ended his season prematurely. Before his injury, Weeks was on a tear, batting .272, 9 HR, 24 RBI in what was about 1/4th of a season's at-bats.
For Weeks to have continued success and stay on this column often, he'll need to keep patient (7 walks in nine games played) and work the count to his advantage, earning more fastballs, which he's been able to hit well for his career. Weeks' success will surely impact the Brewers' overall season, with now an added punch to the lineup that the majority of last season didn't see.
Stock Down: Doug Davis, LaTroy Hawkins, Jeff Suppan, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Edmonds
In what was the biggest spending spree of recent memory for small market Milwaukee, Owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin added several key players to the team. However, like any free agent signing, there's always risk of underperformance involved.
Example: Jeff Suppan signed a $42 million dollar contract with the Brewers for the 2007 season, fresh off his 2006 NLCS MVP playoff performance and a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals. He's fallen severely out of favor in Milwaukee, earning the five spot in the rotation, if for nothing else other than his $12 million salary he's due in 2010.
With risk, comes reward, in the form of Trevor Hoffman 's 2009 campaign. During Hoffman's 17th season, a year in which he posted 37 saves in 41 chances, he showed a 1.83 ERA, his second lowest ERA of his career (1.48 ERA in a season during which he led the league with 53 saves). Hoffman has struggled this season, with 3 saves, and two blown saves in five appearances, including a game-winning home run to Cardinals pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha. For Milwaukee, "Hells Bells" blasting at Miller Park needs to signify a win will be solidified, not squandered.
Also among free agent signings by Milwaukee this offseason, new additions LaTroy Hawkins and Doug Davis (a former Brewer) have struggled to earn their higher-than-market-value deals so far this season.
Davis, who is slotted as the team's third starter, hasn't lived up to his contract, throwing his way to a 12.27 ERA and a 0-1 record with just eight strikeouts in two starts. For Davis to be considered a successful signing, (3 homers and 5 walks in two starts to begin the season) he'll need to turn it around quickly before the fans and management lose faith.
Jim Edmonds , a non-roster invitee to the Brewers spring in Arizona, has challenged Corey Hart for playing time in right field, and if Gomez should falter defensively in center field, Edmonds is likely to be the first candidate for playing time.
However, his hot spring hasn't translated fully to his MLB return. He's batting at clip of .269/.347/.387 to start the year, and has yet to notch an RBI to his scorecard, causing him to lose some playing time to Hart, who has been seeing the ball well and swinging with purpose (.286/.476/.346 4 RBI ) while splitting time with Edmonds.
So, readers of B/R, I leave it to you to discuss: Has there been a hot start for a player you'd like to give an honorable mention? Someone cold-as-ice that I neglected to put on burn notice? Like always, feel free to comment in the box below to share your thoughts.