The Milwaukee Brewers went into Monday’s game against division rival the Cincinnati Reds in third place in the National League Central with an 11-11 record. They are one game behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.
There has been a lot going on with the Brewers both on and off the field, so let’s catch up with the team that resides in the state that calls Kopp's Frozen Custard home.
Ryan Braun signs extension
The Brewers signed Braun to a five-year, $105 million contract extension last week. Braun was already signed through 2015, so this contract will make Braun a Brewer until 2020. The extension also includes a 2021 option for up to $20 million and a $10 million signing bonus.
There has been a lot said in regards to this contract, so here is my take.
Yes, there is some risk involved with this deal since it will start when Braun will be 31, but overall I think this is a pretty fair deal for Braun and the Brewers. The going rate for a player in Braun’s class in 2015 will be most likely $25 million to $30 million per year, so by signing Braun now, the Brewers are probably saving themselves $5 million to $10 million a year on Braun.
Braun is an elite player who shows no signs of regressing anytime soon. If people want to nitpick about Braun’s defense, that’s fine, but every player has a flaw in some way, shape or form. While Braun might not be Carl Crawford in left, he’s not Jack Cust out there either.
At the end of the day this will turn out to be a good signing by the Brewers.
The Brewers have played the entire April without two of their better players in Hart and Greinke. However, help is on the way. Both players are expected back soon.
Hart, who has been out with an oblique injury, is expected back on Tuesday. He is currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Nashville and was 2-for-9 going into Monday’s game.
Joining Hart in Triple-A is Greinke. The former AL Cy Young winner made a rehab start on Sunday and allowed two runs on three hits in 2.2 innings. He threw 54 pitches.
If all goes well, Greinke should return to the Brewers in early May.
The NL Central this year is up for grabs, and every game is going to count. Usually that is just a cliché line, but in this case I really believe it. Getting Greinke and Hart back sooner rather than later will only help the Brewers in the long run.
The John Axford issue
Before the season started, I wrote that Axford was the “Key” to the Brewers’ season. Here is a snippet of what I wrote:
“Now comes the hard part—doing it all over again. Anyone can come out of nowhere and have one good season, but the true test is coming back the following season and matching. Now that the pressure is on Axford to anchor the bullpen, let’s see how he does.”
Right now he’s not doing so well. He’s given up nine hits in 8.1 innings and is walking a ridiculous 6.5 batters per nine. Bottom line is hitters have adjusted to Axford, and he isn’t fooling anyone right now.
Axford’s O-Contact Percentage (percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone) has gone from 57 percent last season to 85 percent this year. He isn’t making anyone miss within the zone.
If Axford can’t figure things, they are going to need to go outside the organization to fill the void at closer. I don’t think they have anyone internally to replace Axford.
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