Sure, we are 88 games into a 162-game season, but for all intensive purposes, we are at the halfway point of the baseball season. Coupled with the fact that there are three or four days between games and that I have a few chill days at work thanks to said All-Star Break, I say we jump into a first-half review and even smaller second-half prediction for the Brewers. And since you don’t know how to access my account, I guess you’re coming with.
I’m a statistics guy. I like the numbers. Well, as long as they aren’t involved in second derivative calculus or any of that mularkey. Thankfully, baseball stats are relatively easy to understand. And so I’ve got some numbers to throw out there about the Crew’s first half performance, how they compare to the rest of the division, and what it might mean for the second half playoff push. (Note: These rankings are among the 16 NL teams, because nobody in their right mind cares about the AL.)
Team Batting Average: Tied for 11th with St. Louis at .255 (NL Average: .258). Ahead of Chicago and Cincinnati. It’s never good to be in the bottom half in average, but we’ve known all along the Brewers aren’t programmed for average, so what really matters is …
Team OPS (On base plus Slugging): 4th at .760 (NL Average: .737). Leading the division. I’ve always liked OPS as a better measuring stick because it takes into account power numbers while still placing importance on getting on base any way you can. You can hit .200 and be a stud if you walk 3 times a game, so batting average doesn’t always tell the story. This number paints a prettier picture for the Brewers – while the offense isn’t always consistent, it’s good much more often than not.
Walks: 2nd with 352 (NL avg: 309) and Strikeouts: 3rd with 681 (NL avg: 611). The most in each category among NL Central teams. Being near the top of the league in strikeouts is no surprise because these guys love whiffing, but the enhanced plate discipline in drawing walks has been a pleasant surprise this season. That leads to the aforementioned high OPS and …
Runs per game: 4th at 4.67 (NL average: 4.44). Leading the division again. You don’t always need hits to score, as long as the ones you do get are extra-base knocks with runners on base. You especially need a potent offense when your pitching staff struggles like the Brewers’ has. Speaking of, we move on to some pitching stats from the first half.
Runs given up per game: 11th at 4.73 (NL average: 4.54). Last in the division. All of a sudden, leading the division in scoring doesn’t mean much when you give up even more. Other than Yovani Gallardo, who has been struggling in his own right lately, not much has been great in the starting rotation and the bullpen has only been between good and middling all things considered.
WHIP (Walks plus hits per inning): 10th at 1.399 (NL average: 1.385). Ahead of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Like OPS on the offensive side, it’s my favorite barometer of pitching success. You get hurt when runners are on base and pitching gets more stressful. If you give up homers with no one on base, it hurts, but not nearly as much as when the sacks are loaded. The numbers aren’t bad, but it isn’t anything to write home to Mom about either. As for that bullpen …
Saves: Tied for 1st with Los Angeles at 26 and Bullpen Record: Tied for 3rd (with Houston) at 17 wins and tied for 4th at 11 losses (behind Cincinnati and St. Louis). Now this looks all great and dandy, but the ‘pen has blown 14 save chances so the save conversion rate is only 8th in the league. Also, some of those bullpen wins come from blowing a save and the offense coming back to win it again. Those things happen over the course of a long season but damn do those losses hurt. And we’ll finish it off with some more interesting, if not important, stats.
Homers hit: 3rd with 100 and Homers Allowed: 2nd most with 114. Both are the most in the division, but hey, it’s more entertainment for the fans. And chicks always dig the long ball. Stolen Bases: Dead last with 28. Um, Houston’s Michael Bourn has 32 on his own, so yeah, not the fleetest of foot. Pitchers used: 2nd least with 17. I guess that’s good for consistency’s sake, but it doesn’t mean much if they are terrible. Even if consistently terrible (Lookin’ at you, Carlos Villanueva).
Is anyone still here? Eh, whatever. Some awards from the first half:
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Prince Fielder. Leads the team in just about every important category, hitting .315 with 22 bombs and 78 RBI at the break. Also drawn 67 walks and has an OPS over 1.000 (Note: Outstanding).
Least Valuable Player (LVP): Bill Hall. Easiest decision ever? We didn’t expect him to hit 35 home runs again, but he’s raking at a .199 clip with 63 strikeouts against only 16 walks. He only has 19 RBI, and is basically in a 3-man platoon with Casey McGehee and Mat Gamel at this point.
Only Good Starting Pitcher Award (OGSPA): Yovani Gallardo. A tough break that Yo is only 8-7 considering his ERA is 3.22 while Braden Looper (7-4, 4.94) and Jeff Suppan (5-6, 4.70) rack up more wins they don’t deserve. As a Crew fan, it’s technically fine with me, but the squad needs to give Gallardo some more support. Just because he doesn’t always need it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t always have it, ya dig?
And You Are Who Again? Award (AYAWA): The prestigious AYAWA award goes to the unlikely hero of the half, and while I considered Trevor Hoffman, we did already know he was the greatest closer of all-time. Coulda gone to Casey McGehee for hitting .329 as a rookie playing multiple positions. But the winner is Mark DiFelice. He’s 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA, and he gets by throwing an 82 mile-per-hour cut fastball literally 90% of the time. That’s like winning Wimbledon by serving underhand every time. His WHIP is under 1 and his K/BB ratio is almost 3.5. Downright unreal. I love the guy. Keep that shit up, Mark, and maybe people will know who you are next year.
Team Prediction: The Crew is currently 45-43, in second place and 2.5 games behind St. Louis. They have been wildly underwhelming outside of a great stretch from April 22 to May 19. They likely need another starting pitcher, but I’m not willing to mortage the future again for a CC Sabathia-type signing. That was awesome, but don’t do it again. The Cubs will likely play better, the Cardinals will always be hanging around, but the other three (Reds, Astros and Pirates) don’t have enough to hang around in my all-knowing eyes. The key stretch is right now, when the Brewers play under-.500 teams for their first 17 games of the second half. This is the chance to regain a stronghold on the division. I say … and I come up with this as I’m typing and definitely without thinking it all through ahead of time … the Cardinals win the divison, the Brewers finish 2nd and win the Wild Card again when the Giants stumble. Let’s say 90 wins assures the playoffs (just like 2008), so Milwaukee needs to finish 45-29. Sounds difficult, but the schedule is easier and now they’ve succeeded in a playoff chase before.