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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Brewers Face Pivotal July

Thus far the 2012 Brewers have underperformed and, aside from stellar performances by Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki and Zack Greinke, underwhelmed, to say the least. Although at times blame has been placed on the hitters and starting pitchers, the main problem has been the bullpen. Blown leads, blown saves, and altogether shoddy work have been the orders of the day far too frequently, and each reliever has an ERA of at least 4.06. Much of the finger-pointing finds its way toward John Axford, though in my opinion he's still the best available option in the bullpen and should remain the closer for the time being.

Despite the fact that it feels like every other day another game is lost by the bullpen, the Brewers have mostly tread water right around five games below .500. Sporting a losing record for each of the first three months of the season, they sit seven games back of the first place Pittsburgh Pirates(!), six behind the Reds, and 5.5 behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. Many now figure the Brewers to be sellers at the trade deadline and rumors have started to swirl, particularly regarding Zack Greinke.

The season is merely half over. A strong second half could more than make up for limping out of the starting gate. Afterall, last year's world series champion began the month of September around seven games back of the wild card spot. The Brew Crew hasn't really gone through any period where they've been hot or cold. Their longest losing and winning streaks are just four games each.

If the Brewers are going to turn it around the month of July would be a great place to start. After the all-star break the Brewers host the Pirates and the Cardinals before heading to Cincinnati. These series represent an important opportunity to regain ground and Doug Melvin indicated he would wait until after them to decide whether he'll look to buy or sell as the trade deadline nears, assigning them even more importance.

Without a strong showing in July any postseason hopes will become much more difficult to actualize. Not only might Doug not add missing pieces, but the final two months could be played by a Brewers team missing Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Francisco Rodriguez. The comeback needs to start now.

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