Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Fear the Umlaut
2005-05-23 18:28
by Mark T.R. Donohue

As the Rockies travel to Milwaukee's Miller Park to meet the Brewers, their hosts sit in second place in the NL Central, although that's not saying much. St. Louis is so far ahead in that division that I believe they are already resting players in anticipation of the playoffs. Milwaukee is one of three flawed teams clustered at seven games back, along with Chicago and Pittsburgh. Based on RS/RA numbers, the Brewers are the best of this bad lot, but I wouldn't write them down as wild card contenders yet. At least they have the advantage of getting to play Cincinnati and Houston many more times each this summer.

Two guys make the Brewers' offense go -- centerfielder Brady Clark and first baseman Lyle Overbay. Overbay is having just an insane season so far, with ten doubles, seven homers, and an OPS over 1.000. Clark, in his first year as a regular, has made Brewers fans forget about Scott Podsednik in compiling a .404 OBP from the leadoff spot. The two major reasons for the Brewers' offense's poor overall showing of 13th in the NL in OPS are the other outfielders, Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee. Lee, who Milwaukee acquired from the White Sox this offseason for Podsednik and reliever Luis Vizcaino, has a .307 OBP so far (his career mark is .338). Jenkins, the enigmatic rightfielder, has 4 homers and a .412 slugging percentage on the year in contrast with a .503 career mark.

The rest of the Brewers' offense, names like Jeff Cirillo, Damian Miller, Junior Spivey, Wes Helms, and Bill Hall, has been predictably bad. Third baseman Russell Branyan (5 homers in 87 ABs) has played well enough to merit his starting full-time, but apparently his defensive reputation will prevent his so doing. Rookie shortstop J.J. Hardy (.156 BA) has hit himself right out of the lineup.

It's too bad that Jenkins and Lee aren't pulling their weight, because the Milwaukee pitching staff has been nothing short of sensational. The Brewers rank 3rd in the National League in staff ERA, and that's without ace starter and franchise player Ben Sheets, who hasn't played since April 20th with an inner ear infection. The rotation hasn't missed a step in his absence, led by Wes Obermueller, Victor Santos, and Chris Capuano, all of whom have ERAs of 3.53 or below. The Rockies will see lefty Capuano and righty Santos, but luck out in Wednesday's third game, when righty Gary Glover (6.46 ERA, 1.67 WHIP) gets the call.

If the starters have been surprising, the bullpen has been uncanny. Matt Wise, Mike Adams, Jorge de la Rosa, and young closer Derrick Turnbow are the names to know in a power staff that ranks second only to San Diego in ERA. The Rockies have had their difficulties in the late innings as it is -- let's see them go out and get Shawn Chacon, Jeff Francis, and Jamey Wright some early leads. Hopefully the Colorado pitchers can respond by keeping Bernie Brewer off of his home run slide.

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