Oh, the joys of being a Brewers fan...
Watching the Brewers can be quite stressful, especially given their inconsistent pitching, but it definitely has it's positives.
Some of the best hitting performances you'll see all year come from the Brew Crew.
From a Casey McGehee Grand Slam after a Prince Fielder intentional walk to load the bases, to Ryan Braun's homers in countless clutch situations, to Damian Miller hitting a game winning home run in the extra innings on La Crosse area day with crowds in attendance from his hometown of West Salem, WI, plenty of Brewer fans are left with lifelong memories to cherish.
However, with all the good, there is the bad, as the Brewers have seen their share of downs this season already.
It's a roller coaster ride being a Brewers fan, and with that come the upswings and down turns of a 162 game season, as is the case with any team.
While ups and downs are part of a season, lets look at exactly that: who's up, who's down, in this part of the season.
Stock Up: Casey McGehee, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo
Finding himself back on my "Stock Up" list, Casey McGehee continues to tear the cover off the ball. Hitting another homer, this one a Grand Slam, McGehee now has 18 RBI and a .329 BA on the season, continuing to shake his "rookie year fluke" rap analysts had pegged him with.
Another repeat member of the "Stock Up" club, Ryan Braun is the spark plug that keeps the team's offense going. At the plate, Braun has brought solid production in the Brewers last ten games, sporting a .342 BA, two homers, 10 runs, 10 RBI and, surprisingly, five stolen bases, which is odd, given manager Ken Macha's reluctance to run with the heart of the order at the plate. Braun's approach at the plate has been consistent as well, drawing seven walks compared to only three strikeouts.
While Braun has stepped up all season for the Brewers, Yovani Gallardo had been a let down in his slow start to the season. If you expect Gallardo to be a Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, etc, you'll be sadly disappointed. As such, expectations with the young and at times naive Gallardo should be tempered a bit.
In Gallardo's last three starts, he's averaging a 1.06 ERA, has 19 strikeouts to 10 walks. With these numbers, Gallardo has shown why he deserved the new contract the Brewers offered this month to the 24 year old ace.
Speaking of new contracts, lets not ignore the elephant in the room: Prince Fielder, and his impending holy-mother-of-god-sized contract waiting for him between now and free agency in 2012. With the contract extension of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, the price to pay the Prince may have gone up.
Howard's deal is five years, $125 million. That's a whole lot of cheddar.
It's been said that the Howard and Joe Mauer contracts are being used as leverage, as the floor for a Fielder extension. That's big money, but for a big talent. Fielder, a player who finds himself in rare company, (able to hit 40+ HR, 130 RBI, yearly) is a team changer, and would be a highly sought after free agent if negotiations fall through.
In the batters box, however, dollars don't matter.
Just balls, strikes, and what you do with them. And that's why Fielder finds himself here. His numbers are not all that spectacular, but he's seemingly found his stroke. Hitting a iPhone-killing foul ball in Pittsburgh, and then hitting his first home run of the season later, it was clear his recent approach at the plate was a more successful one.
In 37 ABs in his last 10 games, Fielder has nine hits, six walks, a homer and five RBI, good for a .743 slugging percentage.
I'm not saying Prince is back to .300, 40+ HR 140 RBI Prince yet, but like all slumps, he's starting to turn the corner.
Stock Down: Jeff Suppan
In this week's "it's-about-damn-time" news, Jeff Suppan has been handed his latest task, killing the bullpen.
Already doing enough damage in his time as a starter in Milwaukee (29-35, 1.58 WHIP) the Brewers, who owe Suppan $12 million this season will have him come into games in setup situations, (better hope for five plus run leads) from the 'pen. Can Suppan be productive in an inning instead of five-six? Maybe. Probably not. Most likely not...ahh well...what can you do, when you can't trade the man?
I mean, a trade would be great and all, and trust me, if I were GM Doug Melvin and received a phone call offering a season's supply of Double Bubble gum and a bag of baseballs, I'd pull the trigger on the deal and call it a good day's work, but lets be realistic..teams have to want what you're offering. Which, of course, is the main snag in a cheap Suppan departure...
Back to Suppan the player, not the trade dud.
He's not been efficient at all on the mound this season, (8.71 ERA, three homers, 17 hits three strikeouts) and one can only hope he can find salvation in a middle relief situation in the bullpen, or in mop up duty.
It's really a shame, too. Suppan's expectations were too high when he came to Milwaukee, and his gas tank was running on empty as it was. He was getting by with run support from a Cardinals power offense and he received a huge payday, considering his diminishing skill set ($42 mil/five years).
I'm not one to be a supporter of Suppan (hence him being on my "down" list) but it has gotten a bit outlandish. Lets consider this: On Facebook, there's a group called "Release Jeff Suppan Already!" and when I last was in attendance for a Suppan start, he, almost on cue with his hecklers, failed, and he seemed to lose any and all confidence on the mound. His location wasn't crisp. His off-speed wasn't off-speed only, it was all around off. He was done, mentally.
When a pitcher, who is under tons of pressure makes mistakes, it's tough to regain any confidence back on the mound. So, in a way, Milwaukee fans are helping their own nightmare continue.
By no means am I saying cheer a Albert Pujols homer off Suppan. I'm saying, cut the man some slack, lord knows we could all use some extra slack once in a while.
In the end, this "stock down" for Suppan is really more of a fan realization, rather than a burn notice. He's got almost nothing left, when we expect everything he can't be.