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Milwaukee Brewers Week Two Recap: Cameron, Looper Among Few Bright Spots

Odibe YoungContributor IApril 20, 2009

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 10: Braden Looper #41 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the Opening Day game on April 10, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo byJonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

All statistics are through Sunday, Apr. 19.

Brewers Record: 4-8

Team OPS: .712

Opp OPS: .811

Week two ended on a positive note yesterday, as struggling starter Jeff Suppan was just good enough to get through six innings, posting his first win of the season and avoiding a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets

Despite some positive signs in the weekend set at brand new CitiBank Field, the main points of concern for this team continue to be erratic pitching and a surprisingly punchless offense.

The first series of the week was a home set against the Cincinnati Reds, a team the Brewers should finish ahead of in the NL Central this season. 

Starter Yovanni Gallardo was given a 5-1 lead in Game One, but with two outs in the top of the third and the bases loaded, he promptly walked the next two batters, plunked the third, and gave up a stunning grand slam to Edwin Encarnacion. 

Six runs with two outs gave the Reds a 7-5 lead they would not relinquish. In fact, it was 7-6 for the final five full innings as the offense could not squeeze in a run against a mediocre Reds bullpen. 

Game two was another feeble performance, as Manny Parra pitched decently, but fell to 0-2.  Reds started Bronson Arroyo kept the offense in check and the three runs in the top of the ninth off Carlos Villaneuva prevented any hope of a comeback. 

Again, walks were the issue for Parra, as he gave up four free passes for the game. 

Game three ended up being another losing streak stopper for newcomer Braden Looper, who has now pitched strong in his two starts, both coming off losses.  The important number in this game was "one", as in the number of walks surrendered by the pitching staff. 

Through the first eight games, the pitching staff surrendered 42 walks (5.3 per game) and eight hit batsmen. In the last four games, this number declined to 14 (3.5 per game), and not surprisingly the earned runs concurrently dropped as well. 

In the three games against the Mets, the Brewers only gave up 8 runs.  Unfortunately, they only scored 8 themselves in losing two out of three, including a 1-0 pitchers duel on Saturday between Gallardo and Johan Santana. 

Again, Gallardo labored, with 102 pitches thrown in only 6 innings, but he kept the walks down (two) and showed some much needed toughness in keeping the Brewers in the game. 

The bullpen has been average, with only Todd Coffey (0 ER in 9.2 innings) and Mark DeFelice (1.29 ERA) standing out as being trustworthy.  David Riske was placed on the DL with elbow tightness, continuing his disappointing tenure with the club since signing as a free agent prior to the 2008 season. 

It looks like closer Trevor Hoffman is still a few weeks away, although with the teams performance thus far, he wouldn't have been used much anyway. 

Overall, the pitching staff leads the NL in WHIP and is dead last in K/BB ratio (1.375).  While there were some signs of improvement against New York, albeit in a true pitchers park, the walks need to remain low. This staff is thin enough; they certainly can't exacerbate the problem by giving up free bases.   

On the offensive side of the ball, Mike Cameron has provided a much needed lift in the 6-hole, leading the team's regulars in OPS, slugging %, on-base %, batting average, runs scored, home runs, and stolen bases, while striking out only seven times. RF Corey Hart has been solid as well, with 3 HR and a .943 OPS.  

The big problem is the lack of production in the 3-4-5 spot of the batting order, with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and JJ Hardy a combined 22-129, with only four home runs and 18 RBI.  Braun continues to fight questions about his health and Hardy is just going to have to work through his seeming lack of confidence in the fifth spot of the order. 

Fielder, on the other hand, has been a massive disappointment and will need to turn things around quickly. Another slow start—like he had last year—will only feed the rumors that he should be the primary trade bait for another top-flight starter. 

With error-prone 3B prospect Mat Gamel ready to join the team sometime this year, management may like the look of him at 1B if his defense does not improve. This would leave Fielder on the outside looking in and a 23-year old power hitter would be very available come July. 

The road games continue this week, with three at Philadelphia and three more against the worst offensive team in the majors, the Houston Astros

I won't make any predictions this time. But I would like the see the gap between the two stats shown on the top of the page continue to close.  

Until then, this Brewers team will be fighting for .500 instead of building on the momentum of last season's playoff appearance.  

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