Sunday, May 4, 2014

The 25 - My First In-Person Look at 2014 Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers currently own the best record in baseball, which is probably the biggest surprise of the 2014 MLB season so far.  Following my first installment of The 25 on opening day, I decided that I would wait for my first in-season update until I saw the Brewers in-person.  Last night I got to see the Brewers play the Cincinnati Reds on the road at The Great American Ballpark with Cheesehead Chick and In-Law Cheese.

The game was poised to be a pitcher's duel given that Gallardo went into the game with a 1.91 ERA while Cueto had a 1.15 ERA. Gallardo turned in his first bum performance of the season given that he allowed more than three runs over six innings for the first time in seven starts in 2014.  Unfortunately for the Brewers, Cueto was stellar for the Reds.  On that topic, a local pizza restaurant runs a promotion that if the Reds strikeout 11 guys they giveaway a small pizza to each ticket holder.  Cueto came close in the 8th with almost the entire stadium chanting PIZZA, PIZZA, PIZZA at the top of their lungs.  A guy a few rows behind us got so excited that he yelled "I JUST WANT TO EAT" at the top of his lungs.  Unfortunately for the Reds faithful, Cueto was unable to seal the deal so although the Reds won, their fans will not be able to get their free small pizza that they apparently desperately need.  High comedy all around.

While we are on the topic of food, the Reds have great food options throughout the stadium.  My favorite spot is next to the right field fair pole.  Not only does the food stand offer the local fair of the opposing team (they fittingly had beer brats) but they also have a ton of tasty Leinenkugel beers on tap that you can mix and match.  My favorite combo is the Honey Bear, which is 1/2 glass of Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss and 1/2 glass of Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss.  The cherry on top is that you can watch the relievers for the opposing team warm up right around the corner from the concession stand I just described.  If the opposing team's fans want to feel at home with some tasty local food and drinks while keeping an eye on their relievers, they should get tickets by the right field fair pole.

Without further adu, here are my updated rankings to The 25 following my first in-person look at the Brewers this season:

Player Rankings
1. Jean Segura (SS, LR 1)
2. Carlos Gomez (CF, LR 2)
3. Jonathan Lucroy (C, LR 3)
4. Yovani Gallardo (RSP, LR 6)
5. Wily Peralta (RSP, LR 8)
6. Kyle Lohse (RSP, LR 5)
7. Matt Garza (RSP, LR 7)
8. Tyler Thornburg (RSP, LR 9)
9. Scooter Gennett (2B, LR 10)
10. Francisco Rodriguez (RRP, LR 20)
11. Marco Estrada (RSP, LR 11)
12. Khris Davis (LF, LR 12)
13. Will Smith (LRP, LR 14)
14. Aramis Ramirez (3B, LR 16)
15. Brandon Kintzler (RRP, LR 15)
16. Logan Schafer (LF, LR 18)
17. Martin Maldonado (C, LR 22)
18. Zach Duke (LRP, LR 21)
19. Lyle Overbay (1B, LR 24)
20. Wei-Chung Wang (RRP, LR 17)
21. Mark Reynolds (1B, LR 19)
22. Jeff Bianchi (3B, LR 23)
23. Caleb Gindl (OF, NR N/A)
24. Rob Wooten (RRP, NR N/A)
25. Rickie Weeks (2B, LR 25)
Disabled List
1. Ryan Braun (RF, 15-DL)
2. Jim Henderson (RRP, 15-DL)
3. Tom Gorzelanny (LRP, 15-DL)
2) Carlos Gomez (CF, LR 2): Baseball has an unwritten code that Gomez refuses to follow, which certainly gets under the skin of the opposing team.  Sure I wish Gomez ran out sacrifice fly instead of admiring them but every other Brewer comes to his defense on a regular basis so I guess the fact that Gomez bucks the normal baseball trends is fine with me.  Add in that Gomez is becoming one of the best centerfielders in baseball four years later than expected and that makes him the most interesting player currently on The 25. With all due respect to Nyjer "Tony Plush" Morgan, I am not sure there is a Brewer more liked by his team and more loathed by the opposition than Gomez in franchise history.  It is almost as if Gomez was put on earth to get under the skin of sanctimoniousness Cardinals players and fans.

#10) Francisco Rodriguez (RRP, LR 20): Going into the season it looked like Jim Henderson was going to be the closer but after a shaky end to spring training, the Brewers went with K-Rod instead of Henderson.  So far K-Rod is perfect with an 0.00 ERA over 17 innings thanks to 24 strikeouts while allowing just four walks and seven hits.  I am not a huge fan of saves as a legitimate MLB stat but the fact that K-Rod tied an all-time record of most saves before May 1st with 13 just shows you how well things are going for the Brewers so far this season.  Given that K-Rod is currently a perfect 14-for-14, I see a couple rough outings coming up sometime soon but we might as well enjoy the tide till K-Rod falters.

#12) Khris Davis (LF, LR 12): The Brewers are taking the anti-Moneyball approach by trying to do as much damage as possible, early in at-bats, against starting pitchers.  That means instead of working the count, the Brewers are swinging early and often if they see a pitch they like.  That is great if you can get to the starting pitcher but if you don't, that allows starters to work longer into the game since they do not rack up huge pitch counts.  Davis seems like the biggest culprit of the anti-Moneyball approach, which worked last season but has not been as successful this year.  Sure Davis has a ton of time to turn things around but if he continues to struggle it will bring my problems with the Aoki/Myers trade to fruition.

It is only the beginning of May but given the (monotony) length of a baseball season, the fact that the Brewers get along so well is powered by more than just Everybody Wei-Chung Tonight, Pharrell Williams, or just Hank the Dog.  If this trend continues, I see the Brewers actually being buyers at the trade deadline to help jump start their playoff run.

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