Milwaukee Brewers: 5 Things That Must Improve If a Postseason Run Is in Store
Brewing Trouble: Identifying 5 Things the Milwaukee Brewers Must Improve If a Playoff Run Is in Store
Less than a week ago, the scorching-hot Milwaukee Brewers were coming off a sweep of their interleague rival Minnesota Twins, and had Brewers nation (including myself) clamoring for some well-deserved respect.
Who could blame us?
After ripping through a three-game series against the Twins, the Brewers had comfortably positioned themselves with a three-game lead atop the NL Central—a place where Milwaukee had not been since July of 2009.
Needless to say, a three-game series in the Bronx proved to be a bona fide wake-up call for manager Ron Roenicke's crew. In fact, the New York Yankees outscored Milwaukee 22-4 in their three-game sweep of the Brewers.
Every team hits rough patches within a successful season, but the Brewers cannot afford to become complacent. Here are five things that must be addressed if Milwaukee expects a deep postseason run.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @doppler9000.
Starting Pitching Must Avoid the "Big Inning"
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Coming into Tuesday's game, Zack Greinke had already carried an abysmal career ERA against the Yankees, but after giving up seven earned runs in just two innings pitched, his ERA escalated to 6.45.
The following day, fellow starter Shaun Marcum pitched just five innings while giving up four earned runs, making his career ERA against New York a less-than-impressive 6.61.
What we should take away from the two outings, however, is not the final line, but the "big innings" both pitchers gave up. Greinke allowed five runs to cross home in the second inning, and Marcum allowed four runs in the fourth inning.
Granted, the Yankees are a ballclub built around offensive flares, but for the amount of experience the two had against New York, this seems like a real concern for Milwaukee moving forward.
If a playoff run is in store, the Brewers starters must avoid putting their team behind early.
Prince Fielder Must Hit the Early Fastball...It's Just That Simple
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I'm educated enough to know this won't be a lingering issue, but it sure seemed like a problem in the Bronx.
In three games against the Yankees, Prince Fielder (in a historic month, nonetheless) went 2-for-10 with a BB, RBI, zero HR and scored one run. Is it safe to say Joe Girardi's rotation exposed free agency's biggest prize in over a decade?
The answer to that is yes.
In Thursday's loss to New York, Fielder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against CC Sabathia. More importantly, though, Fielder struck out on three straight fastballs from Sabathia in one at-bat, all of which came swinging.
This clearly isn't the Fielder we've witnessed this season, and if he can't muster up the ability to hit the cheese, the Brewers will have serious problems.
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There isn't much need for improvement here, but it's definitely worth stating Milwaukee's World Series hopes rely highly on health.
Winning Road Games: The Ultimate Test
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No one team is running away with the NL Central title this season, which plays out great for an inexperienced Brewers team.
Additionally, Milwaukee also maintains the majors' best home winning percentage (73 percent). Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?
Well, not quite.
While their home success is all well and good, the Brewers also carry the worst road winning percentage (35 percent) of any first-place ballclub—a troubling concern for a ballclub with World Series aspirations.
If the Brewers can manage to right their sinking ship on the road in the second half of the season, they'll be in great shape to contend for their first World Series in over 25 years.
Casey McGehee's Success at the Plate
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Last season, Casey McGehee led the Brewers in RBI (104). This season, things haven't shaped up to what was expected.
It's not just his struggles at the plate holding the Brewers back. Without McGehee at full strength heading into the home stretch of the season, teams will be reluctant to pitch to Prince Fielder—and the Brewers cannot afford for teams to pitch around their luminary slugger.
It's been a collective struggle so far, but things must turn around in a hurry if Milwaukee plans on making it to the Fall Classic.