Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
With the Brewers starting 0-4, there aren’t many people in a laughing mood, but it’s unbelievable just how many things have gone wrong for this team in the past month.
Weird spring training injuries, from pickup basketball games to scorpion stings. An Opening Day blown save after looking like a team worthy of the hype for 8.5 innings. A new pitcher with impeccable control walking 5 in his Brewers debut. A good, old fashioned, Sunday buttwhooping. Six shutout innings by the team’s #5 starter (well, #4 for now) wasted when the guy who never gives up home runs gives up two in the 8th inning.
Adam McCalvy called them the Bizarro Brewers, and right now, it’s probably the most accurate description. This isn’t the team that many of us expected, but so many flukey things have gone wrong that you can’t help but chuckle in disbelief.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. There are a number of positive things we’ve seen already, even if it hasn’t translated into the win column:
1. Rickie Weeks is a beast. He won’t stay this hot all year, but when he’s on like this, you’re going to have a hard time finding anyone better at second base. The most impressive thing about Weeks to me so far isn’t even the hot streak at the plate — it’s the defense. With Yuniesky Betancourt at short, he’s had to shoulder more responsibility up the middle. It’s unfortunate that he’s already had one error wrongly pegged on him (Prince Fielder needs to catch the baseball, even on a shorthop), but for the most part he’s looked very solid. He’s not rushing throws, his footwork has been solid, and his throws to first have been on target. Not bad for a guy who has the reputation of a butcher.
2. Chris Narveson’s start against the Braves could prove to be just as flukey as Shaun Marcum’s against the Reds, but at least it gives us hope for the bottom of the rotation for the time being. It wasn’t just about how good Narveson looked against the Braves — it was also just how bad the Braves looked against Narveson. He had Jason Heyward flailing at changeups. He had Dan Uggla down on one knee ahead of a curveball. Atlanta simply couldn’t square up on anything Narveson was throwing, and it was possibly one of the most impressive starts we’ve seen from Narveson since he joined the team. You’d like to see him be a bit more efficient with his pitches — he threw 14 pitches or less in an inning only twice on Monday — but overall it’s hard to complain about that kind of production from your last rotation spot.
3. Kameron Loe is the ultimate ROOGY. He’ll still make you nervous against left-handed batters — see that at-bat against Joey Votto on Opening Day — but he struck out four of the first five right-handers he faced this season. With John Axford struggling to find his control early on, Takashi Saito having a bit of a hiccup on Monday, and Brandon Kintzler and Sean Green being hit around on Sunday, it’s nice to see someone in the bullpen dealing to start the year. Zach Braddock deserves some mention for this as well, as he’s looked very sharp in his appearances so far, calming some of those spring training concerns.
4. Ryan Braun looks fine, which is a relief after another spring training intercostal scare. Like Weeks, he’s hitting the ball hard — it’s just a shame that hitting behind Carlos Gomez means he’s up with nobody on base much of the time. Corey Hart can’t come back fast enough to replace Gomez in that spot, although Ron Roenicke could help the matter before Hart is even ready by playing Nyjer Morgan more and batting him second. Roenicke likes Gomez’s speed in the 2nd spot, but Morgan is just as fast — if not faster — and is a better bet to actually make it on base.
5. Aside from the habit of sac bunting after a leadoff double, Roenicke hasn’t really done much in terms of strategy that could be considered offensive. Bunting with Morgan following leadoff double by Betancourt today — leaving Wil Nieves and Chris Narveson to drive in a runner — was easily the most questionable decision of the season so far, but at least he hasn’t been running the team out of innings by calling for unneccessary risks on the basepaths. When Roenicke gets up to the podium in his introductory press conference and says “you’re going to wonder why we’re running into so many outs,” it sets the bar low. Fortunately, we haven’t seen that yet. Of course, that could be because nobody has been able to get on base, but guys like Weeks and Morgan have shown restraint when they do get on.