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Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez: The Shocking Streak Killing the Milwaukee Brewers

by Tim Muma                                                     4/25/15

While the Milwaukee Brewers' pitching has been far from stellar, it's the club's offense that has truly confused and frustrated fans since the end of last season.

Mike McGinnis, Getty Images
Through 17 games in 2015, the Crew's offense has been shockingly awful, scoring only 2.71 runs per game (second-last in NL).

Last year, the club finished 6th in the NL with 4.01 runs per contest, aided largely by the league's 3rd-most doubles and 5th-best HR total.

And yet, a disturbing trend of offensive impotence was on display at the end of the season.

From August 26, 2014 until the end of last year, Milwaukee tallied just 2.7 runs a game, eerily similar to this season's output. The team went 9-22 in those final 31 contests.

You may have wondered why I'd seemingly choose an arbitrary date like August 26th. From that date through Friday night's contest, neither Ryan Braun nor Aramis Ramirez have had more than one extra-base hit in a game.

With 8 position players in the lineup, including other talented bats, is it fair to blame two guys for a majority of the teams' struggles? This might indicate it's the leading cause.

Mike McGinnis, Getty Images
Ramirez's streak of games with 1 or 0 extra-base hits in a game began on August 26th, and it has continued for 45 consecutive games.

During that span, the third baseman is batting a lowly .192 with a .220 OBP, .269 SLG and an unacceptable .489 OPS.

In more than 170 plate appearances, Ramirez has 9 extra-base hits (2 HR, 7 doubles), 2 walks and just 9 RBI.

Not even close to the production you need from your third baseman, and maybe a sign he's playing one season too many.

Meanwhile Braun's numbers have been slightly better, but he hasn't had 2 or more extra-base hits in a single game since August 2nd of last season.

Justin K. Aller, Getty Images
That's a span of 64 games - easily the longest stretch of his career (previous high was 33 games).

In just over 260 plate appearances in that time, Braun owns just 7 doubles and 6 HR while posting a .226 average and .288 OBP.

He has a Jason Kendall-esque .311 SLG and .619 OPS in that span.

In those 64 games, Braun has 53 strikeouts and a mere 22 RBI.

We know the end of last season was due to the injured thumb, but everyone claims it's doing fine this year, so what gives? Braun has only one extra-base hit - a solo HR in the 9th inning while trailing 6-0. You almost can't have less of an impact.

One can still argue small sample for their at-bats this season, though I'd give Braun more rope than Ramirez. It may be time to give the 18-year veteran even more time on the bench as they have options in Luis Jimenez, Jason Rogers and Hector Gomez.

Tom Lynn, Getty Images
Ramirez's lack of production can easily be seen as an age-induced drop.

Braun, on the other hand, has the hope of improvement as he continues to get at-bats with his "new" thumb. He's smoked some balls that have found gloves, so perhaps he's due for a bit more good luck going forward.

We can analyze the offense as much as we want, but if these two guys don't snap out of it or a Khris Davis, Adam Lind and Carlos Gomez (upon his return soon) will all need to be consistent threats.
handful of other players fill their shoes in productivity, not much will change.

If not, the Brewers' 12-36 mark since Braun and Ramirez forget how to reach 2nd base will likely be matched over the next 48 games.

Ron Roenicke Continues to Come Up Short as Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers

by Tim Muma                                                       4/23/2015

Ron Roenicke is not the main reason the Milwaukee Brewers are off to their worst start in franchise history at 2-13 entering Thursday afternoon. Managers clearly play a role - whether it be with bullpen and lineup decisions or the mentality of the players - but he's only part of the puzzle.

Jeffrey Phelps, Associated Press
However, with an average team like the Brewers, the manager has a greater impact because the margin for error is much smaller.

That leads us back to Roenicke, who in my opinion, continues to laugh in the face of common sense and fails to put his players in the best position to succeed.

This isn't anything new to 2015, but Wednesday night's contest in Milwaukee gave us two perfect examples of why I'm not a fan.

Many proponents of Roenicke will point to his first season when the Brewers won a franchise-record 96 games in route to a division title. When the talent is there, it's much harder to mess things up. He was thrust into a great situation.

Some would argue - myself included - that his warts showed up in the NLCS (e.g. sticking with Shaun Marcum, starting Mark Kotsay in center field) and it dearly cost Milwaukee its best chance at a World Series appearance.

Back to present day Miller Park on Wednesday night, watching Jimmy Nelson throw a spectacular 8 innings against the Cincinnati Reds, as Milwaukee tries to snap a 7-game skid.

In the bottom of the 8th of a 1-1 game, the Brewers get a pinch-hit, leadoff double from (of all people) Logan Schafer. That set up the first decision:  bunt the runner to 3rd with one out or let the top of the order get three cracks at a base hit?

Mike McGinnis, Getty Images
Most times I could go either way, but it ALWAYS depends on the entire situation. At the plate: Jean Segura.

Last season, it makes some sense to bunt as he wasn't hitting at all.

But in 2015, he's been one of the hottest, most consistent bats on the team. Secondly, the infield was playing for a bunt, so the corners were in and the holes were expansive, raising the percentage considerably for a single.

Segura also does a great job of hitting the ball to the right side - so even if he'd be retired on a ground out, Schafer most likely advances anyway. All these factors say let the kid swing.

Then consider Johnny Cueto. It was only his 4th start of the season and his pitch count had reached 100 for the 3rd time this year. He was also coming off an outing where he threw 101 pitches in 7 frames. While he's a terrific hurler, his effectiveness was compromised - and he had just given up a double to a career .208 hitter.

It just made very little sense to intentionally give up an out in that situation.

Almost predictably, Elian Herrera struck out, which took away the advantage of getting the runner to 3rd with 1 out. The results of Ryan Braun and Adam Lind were somewhat moot at that point, because bunt or not, they would've needed a hit to drive in the run.

Mike McGinnis, Getty Images
So with the clubs still tied heading to the 9th, Roenicke summons Francisco Rodriguez. Usually, it makes sense to go with your closer in a tie game at home in the 9th or later as there won't be a save situation.

But it's not automatic!

Roenicke chose to do nearly the exact same thing he did in the third game of the season against the Colorado Rockies.

In that contest, it was a tie game in the 8th inning with a pair of lefties ready to bat for Colorado.

Instead of going to Will Smith to face the two dangerous, left-handed hitters, Roenicke sticks with Jonathan Broxton because "he's the 8th inning guy." After the first out, Charlie Blackmon doubled and Carlos Gonzalez blasted a home run to put the Brewers down a pair.

How about a look at the whole situation for once?

Due up for the Reds on Wednesday: a pinch-hitter for the pitcher, Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto.

Either way, the pinch-hitter would have the platoon advantage, so that's a wash at best. That gets us to Hamilton (switch-hitter) and Votto (lefty). The choice should have been plainly clear: Will Smith, not K-Rod.

First of all, Smith is simply the better pitcher at this point in their careers.

Secondly, Hamilton has a better OBP, slugging percentage and OPS when batting left-handed, and is generally less of a threat hitting from the right side. He also only had 12 right-handed plate appearances this season.

Mike McGinnis, Getty Images
And for the record, Hamilton was 1-for-2 against K-Rod and 2-for-2 vs. Smith - so that shouldn't have mattered at all. But Hamilton wasn't the biggest concern. That honor belongs to Votto.

Roenicke said after the game that K-Rod has been better against lefties than righties anyway, so that didn't matter to him. That's nice, but did you consider the batter might be worse against lefites?

Votto is a fantastic hitter either way, but his OPS is nearly 100 points higher when facing a righty. Meanwhile, Smith held lefties to a .167 average last season with Votto going 0-for-2 with a strikeout in his career against Smith.

So instead, Hamilton singles and goes to third on a Votto single. Granted, the wild pitch by K-Rod was a bit of a fluke, but there would've been a far greater chance that situation never arises with Smith in the game instead.

Who's to say if or when Roenicke will be fired, but if you wanted to see two examples as to why he shouldn't have been back, Wednesday was the perfect microcosm for how he fails to give the club the best chance to win.

How the Milwaukee Brewers Are Making Fans Feel...

by Tim Muma                                                                 4/21/2015

Earlier today (Tuesday), Drew Olson of ESPN Milwaukee tweeted a Stewie Griffin (Family Guy) GIF related to the Green Bay Packers schedule being released. It inspired me to find some for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sometimes our feelings are best expressed in the body language and raw feelings that blossom through our unconscious facial expressions and overall mannerisms.

Just 13 games into a new season - after awaiting the return of baseball for months - the Brewers have evoked many ugly and unfortunate sentiments already.

With that in mind, I thought the members of Family Guy would be best suited to portray the glass case of emotion many fans are going through this season.

A definitive summary of the 2014 and 2015 Milwaukee Brewers...and really the franchise's entire existence for fans.

When you see the Milwaukee Brewers lineup includes Hector Gomez, Martin Maldonado and Luis Jimenez...and you realize that is the best lineup you have.

When you're at the game and the opponent takes a 2-run lead into the third inning.

The next Brewers injury, combining their first three:
1) Routine act (Gomez)   
2) Water-related (Gennett)  
3) Freak accident (Lucroy)

Tracking the Brewers on Gameday (because you can't stand actually watching right now) and the phrase "in play, runs" appears on the screen.

Ron Roenicke bringing in Jonathan Broxton to face two extremely tough left-handed hitters, ignoring Will Smith because Broxton is the "8th inning guy."

The genuine reaction every time a Milwaukee pitcher gets through a 1-2-3 inning or the offense gets an extra-base hit.

When Kyle Lohse gives up only 4 runs in 5 innings of work and the Brewers still have a chance to win.

Witnessing the Brewers base running and defense slowly ruin another inning.

To all the baseball writers making fun of the Brewers on Twitter with stats like, "Eight players have more HR than the Brewers do as a team (4)."

Your response when a friend asks you why you're still watching the Brewers this season.

Trying to Stay Positive About the Milwaukee Brewers

by Tim Muma                                                  4/20/2015

I've been asked by many to give them some "good news" regarding the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers...and I struggle to sincerely come up with optimistic views. That's not to say I've given up on the season, but they are making it awfully hard to to stay positive.

Regardless of how I feel about the club, this is an effort to be the "annoyingly optimistic fan" to offer some slight hope for those that have asked for it.

First, some statistics to indicate the Brewers haven't been completely horrible...

Making Them Hit It  

Jeffrey Phelps, Getty Images
Though Brewers’ opponents are hitting at a healthy rate, the good news is that the hurlers aren’t offering up many free passes. 

Through 12 games, Milwaukee pitchers are 4th in the NL in walks per nine innings at 2.3 BB/9. It’s a positive trend because hitters will cool off over time, and if you’re not walking them, they will begin to make more outs.

Doubles Tradition Continues

The Brewers have had a player lead the league in doubles 3 times in the past decade, more than any other club. They’ve gotten off to a good start as a team, hitting 23 doubles (5th out of 30 MLB teams) overall and boasting 3 guys in the top 10 in the NL with Khris Davis, Adam Lind and Carlos Gomez accounting for 12 of those.

Justin K. Aller, Getty Images
Jimmy Nelson

Considering the Yovani Gallardo trade, questions about the rotation, and the Crew’s 0-4 start, Jimmy Nelson was extra impressive in his 2015 debut. Striking out 9 batters in 7 shutout innings, while displaying a nasty spike curveball, was precisely what Milwaukee needed at the time – and can only hope it’s the first of many stellar outings. 

He only got through 5 frames in his second start, allowing 2 ER and 5 hits while striking out 3 Pirates (0 walks).

Actual Production at 1B/SS 

Let’s not rehash the black hole of 1B or the horrible year the shortstop had in ’14 (on and off the field), but instead celebrate a new beginning. Lind was white hot to open the season and still has a slash line of .300/.391/.475/.866 – literally Hall of Fame compared to the last couple of years at first base.

Jean Segura has also looked far better at the plate, both in shooting the ball to right field and even turning on a pitch for a HR early in the year. He owns a .348 OBP, .780 OPS and the team’s only 2 stolen bases as Ron Roenicke now has him hitting leadoff.

That leads us to the other type of optimism below: Looking back at history to find those instances that could be replicated by the current club. No matter the likelihood, the fact it has happened in some capacity can make people feel slightly better.

The 2001 Oakland Athletics

In 2001, the Oakland A’s started 2-10 and finished with the 2nd-best record in baseball at 102-60, losing to the New York Yankees in 5 games in the ALDS. The early-season streak included 7 straight losses at home, all to divisional teams. Their run differential was -32 after a dozen contests.

Seven of the Brewers' 10 losses are against NL Central foes. They've also gone 1-5 at home and own a -35 run differential.

The 2008 Milwaukee Brewers

Darren Hauck, Getty Images
Seven years ago, Milwaukee went 2-10 during a 12-game stretch from September 7-9. That sort of "slump" in September is typically more damaging then an April swoon. The '08 club ended the year with a 90-72 record to reach the playoffs for the first time in 26 seasons.

A Look Back at 2014

The Brewers are currently 6.5 games out of first place with 150 games to play. Last season, the St. Louis Cardinals sat 6.5 games behind Milwaukee with only 78 contests remaining. St. Louis won the division with with 90 victories.

Mimicking the 2014, 2011 Brewers?
Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images

From April 20-May last season, with largely the same team, Milwaukee went 14-11 despite being outscored by 5 runs. Want something to shoot for? 

If the Brewers did the same thing this season - going 14-11 from today forward - they would be 16-21 through 37 games. That's the same record the 2011 Crew owned after the same amount of games. They finished with a franchise record 96 wins, an NL Central title, and two wins shy of the World Series.


Don't take any of this to mean I'm delusional, unrealistic or full of ______; I'm simply relaying information I've uncovered. As I mentioned at the beginning, after some people asked for anything to hold onto in 2015, I felt obliged to give it a shot.

Brewers Mix blog featured writers Tim Muma, John Linn
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