GUEST COMMENTARY BY: Adam Rygg
Now that this stretch run has come to an end, it’s time to review where the Brewers ended up in my little measuring stick criteria that I laid out a couple of weeks back.
I had stated that for the Brewers to really make a move, they needed to win eight of their most recent 12 games. It’s a move that would’ve made the team two games under .500 with a record of 59-61. It would’ve been a statement! It would’ve shown the Reds, the Cardinals and anybody else in the NL that the Brewers mean business. It would’ve told the world that the Crew was ready to make a move.
Instead? We finished that stretch run 6-6, we’re still six game under .500 at 57-63, and now sit 5.0 GB of the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds record over that same time period? 7-5. Had we gone 8-4, we gain ground instead of losing ground.
There are 42 games left for both the Brewers and the Reds. That’s an average of 14 3-game series (obviously, they aren’t all 3 game series, but I’m talking straight #’s here only). If we were to average a series win (impossible for this club) for the rest of the year, we amass a stretch run of 28-14, and finish 85-77. Over that same stretch, the Reds would need to accrue 22 wins or less, meaning that the best they can do is 22-20 (with our going unconscious) for us to win the wild card…assuming that nobody else in the national league does better.
And therein lies the problem even when facing a deficit of "only" 5 games in the Wild Card standings…not only do you have to play better than you’ve played up until that point (because honestly, had you been playing well enough, you wouldn’t be behind to begin with), but the teams in front of you also have to play poorly enough for you to be able to pass them up.
The Brewers "Elimination #" in the division is down to 37. An Elimination # is the combined number of wins by the team leading a division and losses by the team with the number that are needed to eliminate the lower team from winning the division. Our Elimination # for the Wild Card is 38.
For what it’s worth, nobody has technically been eliminated yet. Not even the Kansas City Royals from winning the AL Central instead of the best team in baseball (by record), the Detroit Tigers. The Royals still have an impossible number of 7. And that’s combined. That means, for them to not get eliminated, they’d have to go undefeated while Detroit finished the year 6-36. You think that’s a bit unlikely to happen? Me too. At worst, the Royals could finish 35-6…if the Tigers didn’t win another game.
But then again, by that point, somebody else would have overtaken the Tigers in the Central, and the Elimination # becomes based on somebody else. It can be a bit confusing to say the least.
The point is, the Brewers aren’t out of it by the numbers, but overcoming being 5 games back isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are a lot of factors that have to align.
It all begins tonight as we take a look at a…
Houston Astros @ Milwaukee Brewers
(8/17/06 – 8/20/06)
I know that you are all going to say "No!!! Adam, what in the he11 are you doing????? Not a series preview!"
In my defense, I realized that the only series that I had done full previews for were on the road. And what do the Brewers do a lot more often on the road than they do at home? That’s right kids, LOSE!
So, on with the Road Dogg Jesse James rip off…
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages: Major League Baseball..proudly brings to you..its soon to be..61 and 63…
Oh nevermind….the next line would have to be about becoming champions of something. While I am the eternal optimist, my timeline (as stated a few times prior) doesn’t haven’t us winning anything until next year at the earliest, and I still think it’d be a lot of luck if we were to win the Wild Card next year.
That’s not to say that we are incapable of sweeping the Astros right out of Miller Park. That would put us at 61-63, and a whole helluva lot closer to those pesky Reds (assuming that don’t also go 4/4 over the weekend).
So, onto tonight’s game:
Jason Hirsh (0-1, 9.00)
Jason Hirsh made his Major League debut in his only appearance of the season just 5 days ago against the San Diego Padres. Hirsh took the loss in that start, only going 4.0 innings while giving up four earned runs on seven hits (three of which were home runs). He also walked two and struck out four. He threw 87 pitches in that game, only 54 of which found the strike zone.
Hirsh could be good for what ails the Milwaukee Brewers at times lately…scoring runs. Not only does he have quite the propensity for giving up gopher balls in the EXTREMELY small sample size of data we have on his Major League career, but we should have all of our guns in the lineup considering that Hirsh is a righty. There will be no day off for Prince Fielder tonight, and hopefully no off day either.
That’s not to say that Hirsh doesn’t have the best of the best to learn from. Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt (whom the Brewers face in Games 4 & 3 of this series respectively) are pretty good right-handed pitchers. They have no doubt gone over the problems Hirsh had in his first start. We could see a sharp performance from the prospect. Afterall, he was 13-2 this year in AAA with 118 K in 137.1 IP and an ERA of 2.10. Opposing hitters only had a .193 average with an insignificant 5 home runs all year.
Really, this one could go either way. I’m hoping for a little nervousness still and that maybe a little bit of doubt has crept into the back of his mind. An early couple of runs, or better yet a dinger or two could be just what the doctor ordered. Let’s "Zambrano" this kid back to Round Rock. The last thing we need is for the offensively challenged Astros to get going right out of the gates and give the kid his confidence back.
Ben Sheets (3-4, 4.98)
But that’s where Ben Sheets comes in. Not only do the Astros tend to have bigger problems scoring runs than the Brewers do most times, but our ace is on the hill and looking to build on a strong-enough outing against the Atlanta Braves also from August 12th.
When Sheets is on, he’s one of the best in baseball. After a lengthy stint on the disabled list, Sheets came back with a venegeance on July 25th against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He threw 7.0 innings of 1 run baseball, scattering 6 hits and striking out 5. In his very next start, against the wild card leading Cincinnati Reds, Sheets picked up the win pitching 8 shut out innings before giving up a 2-run homer to Ken Griffery Jr in the top of the 9th. The bullpen locked it down for him after Yost didn’t want to further stress Sheets’ arm. His 101st pitch of that game was the home run.
Sheets had a touch of stiffness in his chest after the first inning of his third start back against St. Louis. He was pulled after having thrown 27 pitches in the first inning. He was given a couple of extra days off before throwing against Atlanta in the game I mentioned first.
Now, Sheets will be making only his 9th start of the year. He is looking to pull to an even 4-4 record while dominating a team that he, historically, has handled fairly well. His lifetime numbers against the Houston Astros include a W-L record of 9-7 including 3 complete games. He has struck out Houston batters 109 times, trailing only the Chicago Cubs on Sheets’ personal record book. He has walked a measly 22 hitters in 116.1 IP. His career WHIP is 1.15.
All of those numbers do include Sheets’ one start against Houston this season; a start where Sheets reinjured himself and went on the DL for the 2nd time this season (he had started the year on the DL as well, if you recall). In that game, Sheets only lasted 2.1 IP, getting absolutely destroyed for 7 ER on 9 hits. Houston hitters touched him up for a .643 batting average that day versus a career number of only .248.
Sheeter is primed for a rebound game.
Obviously, none of our hitters have faced Hirsh in the Majors because, like I mentioned, his debut was just this past Saturday.
I can tell you this, though. Left-handed hitters beat Hirsh up in his only other start. They hit .500 off of him with a .600 OBP. OPS is over 1.400!! Righties didn’t fare too poorly either, having hit two of the three home runs Hirsh allowed.
But back to lefties for a minute. We do happen to have one of the hottest left-handed hitters in all of baseball right now…who just had a day off…who is rested…who hits the Astros (in 5 games this season) at a .438 clip with a 1.375 OPS of his own…who has 13 of his Brewer rookie record 22 home runs against right-handed pitchers.
Yeah, that Prince Fielder guy. I hear he’s going to be pretty good.
Game 1 has all signs pointing to a Brewer ‘W’. That usually spells disaster for Los Cerveceros, but I think that tonight will be different.
Sheets should be solid, and even if the rookie Hirsh is razor sharp…..you still have to score at least one run to win. Houston, many times over, has proven that they can’t always handle that proposition this season…or last season…or the year before that.
In fact, the Astros have been held to 2 runs or fewer 33 times this year with an incredulous 10 shutouts, including two in their last series against the Cubs. They were swept out of Houston, and have lost five games in a row.
The Brewers need to score early, and just in case (as evidenced by Houston’s 6-8 loss to the Cubs two nights ago in 18 innings and by our own 13-12 loss to them early in the season) we need to score often as well.
Jason Hirsh should give us every opportunity to get off to a good start. Let’s sweep the Astros out of Milwaukee, out of the Wild Card race and motivate them to hopefully sweept the Reds the three games after they’re done losing to us. We have another three game series with the Astros that closes out the month of August, and I’d like them to be looking up at us in the standings by a few games by that point.
Ideal situation? We sweep them, they sweep the Reds, they get swept by the Pirates and we go into Houston facing a team that’s 10 games below .500 and wondering what went wrong so that we can sweep them again.
Stupid? Naive? Fool-hearty? Well, I prefer optimistic, but whatever works for you.