Brewers Season on Brink

I am not an alarmist, especially when it comes to baseball. A lot can happen over 162 games, and so when a team hits a tough stretch, in my opinion, it is not something worth panicking over. The fact is, every team in the league will struggle this season will struggle at some point.

However, I am somewhat concerned with the fact that the Brewers have not been able to overcome this recent patch of adversity. It is unrealistic to envision a team not having a losing streak over four or five games for an entire season. Even a rough ten game stretch is to be expected. However, teams that make the playoffs stop the bleeding. At this point the Brewers have not been able to get out of this last 20 game tail spin.

That fact is concerning. This recent stretch of baseball has been very ugly. Sunday may have been a tipping point. A base running error in the top of the ninth, followed by a fielding error in the bottom of the ninth, and the Brewers lost the series to the Nationals. Ron Roenicke finally seemed to vent some frustration after the game, and maybe his message will be heard.

Again, these things (mistakes, losing streaks)happen during the course of a year. However, if the Brewers want to contend for the rest of the season, they need to stop soon. Fundamental mistakes, poor pitching, and terrible hitting; these are the necessary ingredients for a prolonged slump. Teams that struggle through prolonged slumps do not usually make the playoffs.

I am not jumping ship. The Brewers are still in first and are ten games over the .500 mark. For late July, those are quite the accomplishments. However, if they cannot improve quickly, our playoff run might be over by the first Packers game.

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Good Defense Beats Good Offense

Last night was a great indication of what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl Championship on the back of their stifling defense. They made Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos look awful. That was not something many people expected to happen in this game. Many, including myself, thought this would be a close game. We were wrong.

It is evident that the key to winning a Super Bowl is a reliable defense. The Seattle offense was not overpowering by any means last night, but the fact is, they did not have to be. Their defense dominated, and essentially required the offense to score nine points. In reality, the defense and special teams covered that number. The offense did not have to actually produce one single point for the Seahawks to win. That is impressive.

As a Packer fan, it was abundantly clear that the Seahawks defense is on a different level. They have the ability to win games. That is something that the Packers needed their defense to do this season during Rodgers’ injury. Unfortunately for the Packers, they did not have the talent to accomplish that feat. That is where the Packers fall short. When comparing this team to the leaders in the NFC, namely the 49ers and Seahawks, the Pack are not in the same discussion when it comes to defense. That is why they continue to come up short despite a prolific offense.

Hopefully the organization watched the speed and talent on the defensive side of the ball last night. The Packers are close, and if they decide to make a move in the free agent market this off season, they may be playing in Arizona next February. If they choose to stand pat, they will watch the game just like the rest of us.

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Marquette Basketball: Crunch Time

When the final horn sounded on Saturday afternoon at the conclusion of the Marquette basketball game, a somber mood encompassed the Marquette fan base. After an amazing comeback at the end of regulation against the Wildcats, Villanova simply took it to the Golden Eagles in overtime and essentially put the Marquette season on the brink.

Marquette is 11-9 (3-4) with five losses in their last nine games. They did not have any good out of conference wins during the early part of their schedule and they currently find themselves mired in the middle of the Big East standings. Their best win of the season is probably a victory against George Washington. Simply put, at this point in time, they are not a tournament team. Honestly, they are not even close to being a tournament team.

Marquette has 11 games remaining on their schedule and it is a fair statement to say they need to win at least 9 to have a chance at an at large bid. Even with nine wins, they may need a win or two in the Big East Tournament to ensure a birth in the NCAA.

Given the strength of opponents on the remaining schedule, it is conceivable that this could happen. However, the Golden Eagles will need to play with far more consistency than they have year to date. They have yet to win more than two games in a row all season, and if they continue with that pace they will likely be headed to the NIT this season.

It is not often that games are labeled as “must win” during January. However, the Golden Eagles find themselves in exactly that situation. If they cannot catch fire and get on a bit of a run, they will find themselves needing to win the Big East Tournament to secure a bid. For Marquette, the post season mindset and attitude needs to start now.

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Matt Garza Changes Outlook

Matt GarzaIt took a while, but the Brewers finally made their “splash” in the free agent marketplace. Yesterday, the Brewers signed former Rangers pitcher Matt Garza. Although he ended the season in Texas, Brewers fans will probably remember him best from his days with the Cubs.

The contract, which took a couple of days to iron out since reports of his signing initially surfaced last week, is the largest and most lucrative ever offered by the Brewers to a pitcher. Some have scoffed at his injury history and underwhelming W/L record (67-67), however with a career ERA of 3.87, this signing makes the rotation much stronger. The top end of the rotation including Yovanni Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza is formidable and competitive. While the Brewers still lack a dominant number one pitcher, these guys should be able to consistently keep the Brewers in games. That is something that the rotation has struggled with in the past.

The rotation does not need to be dominant, just consistent. The Brewers are once again solid on the offensive side of the lineup. With Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez coming back, the Brewers offense should be able to return to 2012 numbers. That is contingent on both Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez replicating their production from last season. If they can manage that, this club may be able to compete for a divisional title or at the very least a wild card.

In my opinion, the Cardinals remain the class of the division, but the Brewers are much more competitive because of this signing. I think they have a legitimate shot at winning 85-87 games and that should keep them in the hunt for the playoffs. At the very least, we should be much more interested in Brewers baseball come to August than we were last season.

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