If you haven't been paying attention to the Brewers lately (and really, for awhile I couldn't blame you), you've been missing quite the stretch of improved outings from the starting rotation. Gone are the days of hoping they can get through 5 innings without giving up 5 runs -- we're starting to see a consistent stream of quality starts.
What's the secret to their success? It's getting ground balls.
Jack Moore at Disciples of Uecker had (another) excellent post the other night following Randy Wolf's start in Anaheim, pointing out that 14 of the 20 balls put into play against Wolf were grounders. The trend goes beyond Wolf, though.
Dave Bush had a nearly identical start on Tuesday night, getting 12 groundouts against 8 flyouts. Both Wolf and Bush have struggled with giving up home runs this year, so the fact that they're getting the ball down is a huge factor in their recent success.
How are the rest of the starters in the rotation doing with this lately? Well, here's the starters for the month of June (when the pitching has seemed to turn a corner), and their ratio of flyouts to groundouts.
June 1 @ FLA, Dave Bush: 6 groundouts, 9 flyouts, 3 strikeouts [Brewers lose]
June 2 @ FLA, Yovani Gallardo: 5 groundouts, 12 flyouts, 4 strikeouts [Brewers win]
June 3 @ FLA, Chris Capuano: 4 groundouts, 3 flyouts, 4 strikeouts [Brewers lose]
June 4 @ STL, Randy Wolf: 8 groundouts, 8 flyouts, 4 strikeouts [Brewers lose]
June 5 @ STL, Chris Narveson: 7 groundouts, 7 flyouts, 4 strikeouts [Brewers lose]
June 6 @ STL, Manny Parra: 3 groundouts, 4 flyouts, 10 strikeouts [Brewers win]
June 8 vs CHC, Gallardo: 5 groundouts, 8 flyouts, 7 strikeouts [Brewers win]
June 9 vs CHC, Wolf: 8 groundouts, 5 flyouts, 1 strikeout [Brewers lose]
June 10 vs CHC, Bush: 7 groundouts, 5 flyouts, 5 strikeouts [Brewers win]
June 11 vs TEX, Narveson: 11 groundouts, 5 flyouts, 4 strikeouts [Brewers win]
June 12 vs TEX, Parra: 4 groundouts, 6 flyouts, 8 strikeouts [Brewers lose]
June 13 vs TEX, Gallardo: 4 groundouts, 4 flyouts, 10 strikeouts [Brewers lose]
June 14 @ LAA, Wolf: 14 groundouts, 6 flyouts, 3 strikeouts [Brewers win]
June 15 @ LAA, Bush: 12 groundouts, 8 flyouts, 1 strikeout [Brewers win]
The results aren't too surprising here. If the starter isn't striking everyone out -- and if that starter isn't Gallardo or Parra, they're probably not going to rack up the K's -- they have a lot more success when they keep the ball on the ground.
Narveson will take the mound for the Brewers on Wednesday as they look for the sweep over the Angels. If the Narv Dog can continue the groundball trend of this series, they should have a good chance at winning the game and sweeping the series. He's already done it once against a Texas Rangers offense that ranks a lot higher than the Angels -- hopefully he can keep doing it against lineups that are considerably weaker.