This edition of From the Bleachers is dedicated to the memory of former Milwaukee
Brewers third baseman Mike Coolbaugh. Coolbaugh, the first base coach for the
Colorado Rockies AA affiliate Tulsa Drillers, was killed July 22 after being
struck in the neck by a line drive. Coolbaugh appeared in 39 games for the
Brewers in 2001 and five more for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002.
Mike is survived by his wife Mandy and sons Joseph and Jacob. The Coolbaugh's are
expecting their third child in October. For those wishing to make a donation to
the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund, please visit the
Tulsa Drillers web site.
Much like the epic western, the month of July consisted of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". With Brewer fans accustomed to illusions of "good" and plenty of genuinely "bad" and "ugly", a month that includes as much good as July actually did might not seem so bad. While winning does make watching this team much more enjoyable, it comes at a price. When your team is hanging on to first place by the narrowest of margins, there is little consolation watching a rookie pitch six solid innings if the bullpen doesn't hold the lead. The days of appreciating a good Manny Parra start that ends with a loss are over. That's "good, bad and ugly".
Before we delve into this month, here are the National League Central standings as of July 31.
Standings as of July 31
Easily the best news of the month is the Brewers extended their consecutive days
in first place to 102. The last time the Brewers were not at least tied for
first place was April 20 when the 9-7 Brewers trailed the Houston Astros by 1/2
game. This is perhaps even more impressive when one considers how poorly
Milwaukee played for a good portion of July and how good the Cubs have played,
but we'll save those details for the bad news.
For those looking for a sign that this Brewer team is different than those in
the past need look no further than the performance of rookies Yovani Gallardo,
Manny Parra and Ryan Braun.
When Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka
went on the disabled list during the 2006 season, the Brewers attempted to
replace internally only to watch the three primary replacements struggle to a
2-7 record with an ERA well over six. Fast forward a year and the Brewers have
replaced, at different times, Chris Capuano and Sheets with Gallardo and
Parra. Unlike past years where a start by a minor league pitcher meant almost
no chance of winning, Gallardo and Parra have gone a combined 4-2 (2-0 in July)
while both sporting an ERA under three.
And then there is Braun, who was good enough to win
both the NL Player and Rookie of the Month awards for July. He seems to be intent
on having the best rookie campaign by any player has had since Albert Pujols'
These guys are just like Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and
Corey Hart; "studs" manager Ned Yost called them. They aren't
your average players, they are different, better, and they are a big reason the
Brewers are still in first place. And they are a big reason to be excited about next year, and the next, and the next.
To wrap up the month of July (at least our good news section), we'll take a
look back at the game of the year so far, the July 31 game against the Mets.
The Brewers came home to Miller Park after having lost three straight to the
St. Louis Cardinals.
Milwaukee's lead had shrunk to a mere game over the surging Cubs. And the Mets
were not only sporting the best record in the National League, but were also
sending 299 game winner Tom Glavine to the mound. The Brewers appeared
to be on their way to a fourth consecutive loss, trailing 2-1 entering the
bottom of the 8th. Bill Hall proceeded to smack a one-out double off Aaron
Heilman to tie the game at two. Milwaukee loaded the bases in the
bottom of the 9th and 11th, but failed to score. The bullpen threw 6 2/3
scoreless innings, including the top of the 13th by starter Dave Bush,
setting the stage for Geoff Jenkins' 13th inning walk-off, two-run
home run off Aaron Sele . The win kept the Brewers in sole
possession of first place in the National League Central as the month ended.
While the Brewers remained a game ahead of the Cubs by months end, that good
news is somewhat tempered when one remembers they started July with 7.5 games
lead. Combine an 11-16 month for the Brewers with a 17-9 month for the Cubs and
you end up with a lead 6.5 games smaller after 31 days.
The team performance
After being solid in nearly every facet of the game thru June, the Brewers struggled both offensively and on the mound.
Statistical Comparison: The first 80 games versus July
I think "ick" about says it all.
The injury bug finally struck the Milwaukee Brewers during July after
being absent for most of the first half of the season.
Center fielder Bill Hall and starter Ben Sheets both missed the majority of the
month with injuries.
Hall suffered a right ankle sprain in the second inning of Milwaukee's 6-3 loss
to Pittsburgh at PNC Park on July 5. Hall, who was hitting .271/.310/.448
with a team-high 24 doubles in 79 games before the injury, landed hard after
trying to rob Ryan Doumit of a home run. Hall's injury was
initially diagnosed as a high ankle sprain and there was some talk
that Hall may miss as many as six weeks. However, it was discovered his
injury was not so severe as initially thought and he rejoined the Brewers on
Ben Sheets was injured during his July 14 start against the Rockies after
throwing a pitch to Todd Helton in the top of the fourth inning.
Sheets tore tissue in his middle finger on the pitch and was place on the
disabled list on July 15. Sheets, who was 10-4 at the time of the
injury, was expected to miss between four and six weeks, but no immediate
time table was established. It is also thought that Sheets may have to
make a rehab start or two in the minors, which means the earliest Sheets will
probably be back is September 1.
Although hardly the sole
reason for their slide, it isn't a coincidence that the Brewers had a sub-.500
month with two starters missing so much time.
One can't mention the "ugly" and not talk about second baseman Rickie
Weeks. We all know about the wrist injury Weeks suffered in 2006 and
the subsequent surgery to repair it. We also know that while Weeks has been
well enough to play he is still experiencing soreness. That soreness not
only lead to a stint on the DL but it has clearly affected his
performance. So, while Weeks' performance to date may be more of a
reflection on his health than his ability, he has had a rough year (hitting
.212/.330/.363/.693) and a bad July (.125/.279/.143/.422). In fact, Weeks was
in such a funk that the Brewers optioned him to AAA Nashville at the end
of the month. While the Brewers should benefit from increased offensive
production from Tony Graffanino, a return by Weeks to his 2006 form in
September would be a tremendous shot in the arm to the team that needs a player
or two who can get on base consistently.
Easily the ugliest stretch of the month had to be the Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, in St. Louis. Milwaukee lost three of four to the Cards, including three in a row after taking the opener on Friday night 12-2.
The ugly started on Saturday afternoon in game one of a day-night doubleheader. Milwaukee jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and still led 6-3 after Manny Parra's six solid innings. But, the Cardinals got one more run in the seventh before scoring three in the ninth of All-Star reliever Francisco Cordero to win 7-6.
St. Louis scored three first inning runs of Chris Capuano en route to an easy 5-2 victory.
Sunday started much like Saturday. A rookie starter (this time Yovani Gallardo) was given a big lead early (this time 5-0 after 4 1/2 innings), only to see that lead evaporate into nothing. This time St. Louis did all their damage in just two innings, scoring four in the bottom of the fifth off Gallardo to make it a game and five more in the bottom of the eighth. The Brewers 9-5 loss capped off a brutal 27 hour period that saw them lose three straight and two after leading by five or more runs.
Before everyone runs out and rents the Sergio Leone classic, here is a look at the rest of the month of July. Don't worry, there are plenty of good things to read about to take your mind off the bad.
2007 All-Star Game
The Milwaukee Brewers sent four players to the 2007 All-Star game in San
Francisco. Each of the four got into the mid-summer classic as the National
League lost 5-4.
First baseman Prince Fielder got into the action a day early as one of the five
National League representatives in the Home Run Derby. His three first-round
home runs were good for fifth place, with only the top four advancing to round
Fielder, was voted the starting first baseman, hit sixth for the National
League. Prince committed a first inning error that allowed David Ortiz to reach
base, walked in the second off Danny Haren and lined out in the fourth off Josh
Beckett before giving way to Derrek Lee in the fifth.
The next Brewer to enter the game was pitcher Ben Sheets, who replaced Brad
Penny in the top of the third with the NL ahead 1-0. Sheets worked around hits
to eventual game MVP Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter to record a scoreless
Closer Francisco Cordero entered the game in the top of the sixth with the
American League ahead 2-1. While Cordero did retire Alex Rodriguez, Home Run
Derby champ Vlad Guerrero and Carlos Guillen, he did give up a two-out home run
to Carl Crawford.
J.J. Hardy entered the game in the bottom of the ninth with the AL clinging to a
5-4 lead as a pinch hitter for Jose Reyes. Hardy's at-bat came after Alfonso
Soriano's two run home run off J.J. Putz. Hardy drew a walk and eventually
advanced to third before Francisco Rodriguez got Aaron Rowand to fly out to end
The loss by the National League, their tenth in 11 games since 1997, ensures the
American League will have home field advantage in the 2007 World Series.
Barry Bonds comes to Milwaukee
Barry Bonds hit his 752 and 753 career home runs on July 19 against the
Cubs, leaving him two short of home run king Henry Aaron's
magical 755. That made San Francisco's series at Miller Park July 20-22
The three-game series opened on the 31st anniversary of Aaron's final home run,
hit on July 20, 1976 at Milwaukee County Stadium. With Commissioner Bud Selig
looking on, Bonds went 0-4 with a walk as the Giants beat the Brewers
8-4. Bonds faced starter Jeff Suppan three times, grounding out,
walking and popping out. Bonds flew out in the seventh off reliever Carlos Villanueva
and was struck out looking by Derrick Turnbow
in the eighth.
The Giants shut out the Brewers 8-0 on July 21, but Bonds was again held
homerless, going 0-2 with two walks, one intentional. Starter Dave Bush
struck out Bonds swinging in the first and induced a 1-3 ground out in the
fourth before walking in the sixth. Brian Shouse intentionally walked
Bonds in the eighth, at which time he was lifted from the game for pinch-runner Fred
Bonds didn't play in the series finally on July 22 but he his presence was
noted. With the Brewers leading 7-5 entering the top of the ninth, Bonds
lurked in the dugout and appeared ready to pinch hit should a Giant hitter
reach base. However, Brewer closer Francisco Cordero had a 1-2-3 ninth,
preserving a victory.
For the series, Bonds was 0-6 with three walks, one intentional. It
wasn't until July 27th that Bonds hit number 754, his last home run before the
end of the month.
Parra's debut and first start
It's been quite a ride for Manny Parra. The Brewer left-hander started his
professional career as a 26th round pick in the 2001 draft. As a
draft-and-follow candidate, Parra wasn't signed until just before the 2002
draft, but the wait was worth it, as he signed a contract with
a $1.55 million signing bonus.
Parra made his Miller Park debut on August 14, 2003, not with the Milwaukee
Brewers, but rather with the class A Beloit Snappers. That was Parra's
last of the 2003 season, as he was sidelined for the rest of the year.
That was the last season before this year that Parra pitched more than 100
innings in a season.
Parra started the 2007 season healthy. After starting the season in AA
Huntsville's rotation, he was promoted to AA Nashville on June 15. Just
eleven days later, in his second AAA Start, Parra fired the eighth perfect game
in Pacific Coast League history, striking out 11.
Parra was recalled to Milwaukee on July 16 and made his debut against the
San Francisco Giants on July 20. Parra entered the game in the top of the
8th with the Brewers down 8-4 and the bases loaded. Parra struck out Guillermo
Rodriguez to end the eighth and pitched a perfect ninth with two more
strike outs. Of Parra's 15 pitches, 13 were for strikes.
Parra made one more relief appearance in July before making his first major
league start in St. Louis on July 28. Parra went six innings, allowing
three runs, one earned, and left the game with the Brewers leading 6-3. A
three run St. Louis ninth inning cost Parra his first major league
Linebrink acquired from San Diego
With the bullpen turning from a team strength in July to a weakness, the Brewers
traded three minor leaguers, including their top prospect, to San Diego for Scott
Linebrink. Linebrink, who had been the Padres top setup man
until recently, was acquired for Will Inman, Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison.
Because Linebrink's wife was due to deliver the couple's first child, Milwaukee's
newest reliever appeared in only two games before leaving the team at the end
of the month. The Brewers hope that the 31 year-old Texan will stabilize
a bullpen that has been worked a lot this summer.
For an analysis of this trade, please read
Analyzing the Linebrink-Inman Trade and this months'
Pitcher of the Month
When Yovani Gallardo was recalled to start for the injured Chris Capuano, it was
thought that Gallardo would leave the rotation when Capuano returned.
This would allow the Brewers to better manage Gallardo's innings and help
keep him fresh for September. Gallardo did pitch twice out of the pen
during the early part of the month, but the best laid plans changed on
July 14 when Sheet's injured the middle finger on his pitching hand.
Gallardo pitched 4.2 one hit innings that night, while striking out four and
In three July starts, the 21-year-old Gallardo was 2-0, pitching 17.2
innings. In those 17.2 innings Gallardo allowed only 13 hits and 5 runs,
walking 7 and striking out 17.
While losing a pitcher the caliber of Ben Sheets is never good, it's nice to
have a pitcher as good as Gallardo to slide into the rotation in his place.
Gallardo's July Line
Player of the Month
Ryan Braun has spent two full months in the major leagues, and he has been named
the Brewerfan.net Player of the Month twice. Ok, so that might not be as
cool as being named National League Rookie of the Month for June and
July, and National League Player of the Month for July, but I think Braun would
appreciate the award anyways. Braun became the first player to win Rookie
and Player of the Month in the same month since the inception of the former in
After recording 11 multi-hit games in June, including four three-hit and two
four-hit games, Braun "only" had 10 in July. In fact, as good as Braun's
July was, his June was statistically better. Only in home runs and RBI
did the rookie better his June numbers.
In case that didn't let you know the kid can hit a little, Braun is having the
best rookie campaign since Albert Pujols' 2001 season. Just for fun,
let's project Braun's numbers as of July 31 to the 590 ABs that
Pujols had in 2001.
I really am having trouble finding a comparable season by any Brewer player, much less a rookie. While he has only played 59 games, his batting average is the third highest in Brewer history behind Paul Molitor and Cecil Cooper. Braun's current home run pace is 36, which would break Prince Fielder's rookie record and be the 9th highest single season total in Brewer history. His full season projection of 44 home runs would be second only to Richie Sexson and Gorman Thomas (depending on what Fielder does the rest of the year). That's one heck of a rookie season. Brewer fans can only hope Braun continues to hit like that for the next 10-15 years.
Braun's July Line