The Good: Ryan Braun
The fact that the Brewers managed to finish 2nd in the National League in nearly every major offensive category despite the power slump of Prince Fielder is a testament to just how good Braun (and to a lesser extent, Casey McGehee) was. Heading into May, Braun leads the Brewers in batting average (.355), OBP (.430), slugging (.581), home runs (5), RBI (20), runs scored (19), and OPS (1.011).
Simply put, he's been red hot for nearly the entire first month. I'd hate to think about where this team would be -- and especially how bad the offense would be lately -- if he wasn't around to pick up the slack.
The Bad: Doug Davis and Jeff Suppan
It's hard to be mad at Suppan for the fact that he was even put in the starting rotation in the first place. That's a failure that should be put squarely on the shoulders of Ken Macha and Doug Melvin. It's not Suppan's fault management couldn't see his skills had deteriorated before he got shelled in his two starts. With that said, he didn't do the team any favors with his two starts against the Cubs. He did a decent enough job in mop-up duty for Davis the other night, but it's pretty clear at this point that he shouldn't be pitching in any meaningful innings as long as he's still on the roster.
Davis has had a nice outing against the Cubs last week and looked very good again in the first few innings against the Padres the other day, but his body of work for April stunk, for lack of a better word. He only pitched 22.1 innings in his 5 starts, and has only had one start which resulted in a gamescore higher than the average point of 50. When the Brewers brought Davis back, we knew what we were getting -- a guy who will strike out between 4 and 6 batters a game, but will also walk 2 or 3 and have quite a few short outings as a result. What we didn't expect was a grand total of one quality start in the season's first month.
The Ugly: Trevor Hoffman
Hoffman's April implosion was equal parts infuriating and sad. In some games, he managed to get the other team down to their last out before it all fell apart. In others, it was clear from the start that he wasn't right. We've been down this path with a shaky closer before, but this is the first time we've dealt with a finesse guy who can't seem to locate his extremely hittable stuff -- most of our experiences have come with guys who could throw 95 mph but never had good control in the first place.
We've talked about the puzzling lack of change-ups and the overuse of his fastball in the past week, and he's explained the pitch selection as just trying to get ahead in the count. Of course, the problem comes when a.) he's not getting the fastball over for strikes and b.) when the fastball is a strike, it's not staying in the park.
With that said, let's just hope that May is kinder towards the Brewers in every aspect of the game. It would be great to see Hoffman start the month with a few "clean" saves to calm the nerves of a lot of people, as would seeing Prince getting more to hit (and hit hard).
The Good: Ryan Braun
W: Clayton Richard (1-2)
L: Dave Bush (1-2)
SV: Heath Bell (7)
SD HR: Scott Hairston (3)
MIL HR: None
Sorry about being so late to get this up, but if you didn't catch the game Friday night, you didn't miss much.
The Brewers were shut out for the second game in a row -- the first time that's happened since July 27-28, 2005 -- effectively wasting a good start from Bush. To make matters worse, Carlos Gomez strained his left knee trying to beat out a bunt in the first inning, and likely won't play for the rest of this series.
The Brewers closed April at 9-14, extending their losing streak to 4 games and losing 7 of their past 8. Oh yeah, they're also a half game out of last place.
It was definitely a frustrating month, between bad personnel decisions (putting Jeff Suppan in the rotation) and bad performances (Doug Davis' first few starts, Trevor Hoffman blowing 4 saves). The future doesn't look to be too sunny, either, with the team facing the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the final two legs of this long West Coast trip, and the Braves and Phillies waiting for the Brewers at Miller Park when they get home.
May is a new month, though, and hopefully the bats start to heat up the closer we get to summer. If there's any reason to be optimistic, it's the fact that we've started to see some better performances out of the starting rotation and they could have been 13-10 and in second place if Trevor Hoffman converts all of his save opportunities.
L: Doug Davis (0-3)
If you didn't watch the game and just looked at the box score this morning, you probably muttered something about Doug Davis and Jeff Suppan being typically bad and went on with your day.
The truth? The Brewers bled to death by papercuts.
The Padres scored 9 runs on Davis and Suppan, but every one of their 13 hits were singles. Estimating off the top of my head, there were maybe 4 or 5 hard-hit balls all night, and the majority of those were given up by Suppan.
As Jack Moore of Disciples of Uecker said last night, the BABIP gods were not happy with the Brewers.
The Brewers were unable to score off Padres starter Wade LeBlanc, despite having 4 of their 8 hits against him go for doubles.
There's not a lot more left to say, other than Davis got extremely unlucky last night, and hopefully Dave Bush has better luck against the Padres tonight.
W: D.J. Carrasco (1-0)
L: Manny Parra (0-1)
PIT HR: Ryan Doumit (3), Andy LaRoche (2), Andrew McCutchen 2 (3)
MIL HR: Corey Hart (3), Carlos Gomez (2)
Oh boy, where to start?
Trevor Hoffman blew his fourth save of the season -- his second in a row -- and ultimately cost the Brewers the game as they lost in 14 innings.
The game lasted so long that it's easy to forget what happened early on. Chris Narveson had an extremely tough time in the first inning of his first start of the year, giving up 3 runs on 2 homers before recording an out. Narveson did the improbable, though, and shut down the Pirates from that point on, ultimately leaving the game in line for the win after pitching 5 innings.
Carlos Villanueva, Todd Coffey, and LaTroy Hawkins were nearly flawless in relief, but the Brewers were unable to tack on any more runs, which meant Hoffman once again had to protect a one-run lead.
Once again, the Brewers' lead in the 9th was gone after just a few pitches -- Doumit led off the 9th with a pinch-hit blast that tied the game. Thankfully, Hoffman was able to keep the game tied, and the game went into extras.
In another puzzling bullpen move (Macha strangely used Villanueva in the 6th, despite the fact he's been the best reliever at this point), Claudio Vargas was sent out to pitch the 10th, and promptly gave up a leadoff homer to McCutchen, good for the centerfielder's second blast of the game.
A thrilling bottom of the 10th saw the Brewers tie the game once again, but come short in winning it when Alcides Escobar swung at the first pitch after Gregg Zaun walked on four pitches, popping out to end the inning.
The Brewers nearly won it again in the 13th, but Jim Edmonds was thrown out at home, and the Pirates went on to score in the 14th. The Brewers went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning to end a 1-5 homestand.
Overall, this was an incredibly frustrating end to the homestand. Not only should the Brewers have walked away from this series with another sweep of the Pirates, but the extra innings game caused the Brewers to burn up the vast majority of their bullpen before the start of a West Coast road trip that starts tomorrow night. If we knew this was going to be the end result, maybe it would've just been better for Hoffman to give up another grand slam in the 9th.
It might sound silly when you look at the big picture, but the Brewers really, really needed a series win agains the Pirates. West Coast road trips have never been kind to the Brewers, and I felt that way even before the Padres became one of baseball's most surprising teams this month. Now the Brewers have to face a Padres club that's finding ways to win a ton of close games with a bullpen full of guys who are either gased or doubting themselves.
I think I just threw up in my mouth. Ugh.
This is what I could come up with, although I'm sure there's more that could be done with the data, but I'm just not knowledgable enough about the intracacies of Pitch F/X to dive deeply into this:
- Hoffman has allowed 5 home runs this year, and all but one one have come from right-handed hitters: Nick Stavinoha, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Ronny Cedeno. Ryan Doumit is a switch hitter that was batting left-handed for his grand slam.
- All 5 of Hoffman's home runs allowed have come in games in which he blew the save. 4 of those 5 home runs were hit off fastballs. The only home run to be hit off a changeup was Stavinoha's.
- Discounting an intentional walk to Garrett Jones, Hoffman has started more counts behind (10) than ahead (9).
- Of those 10 batters to which he fell behind, he fell behind on a first-pitch fastball 7 times. The remaining 3 times, it was a cutter that missed.
- He threw 7 changeups in the first blown save, but only 1 in the second and 3 in the third.
Click "Read More" for the full batter-by-batter, pitch-by-pitch breakdown of Hoffman's blown saves.