Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

September 16, 2012 — Brewers Back in Wild Card Chase; Corey Hart Status

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Folks, after all but writing the Milwaukee Brewers off a few months ago due to their bullpen meltdowns, the Brewers have quietly managed to get back into wild card contention.

Now, there are some qualifiers to consider, the first being that the Brewers are only contending for the second wild card spot, not the first — that is, if this were last year, the Brewers would not be in contention at this point as there was only one wild card available last year — and the second being that at 74-72, the Brewers are still two games over .500, which isn’t exactly a world-beating record.

However, this is much better than I thought the Brewers would be at considering it’s September 16, 2012 — they’re still in contention, they’re playing good baseball, and they’ve even taken the lead in strikeouts with 1,261 (by pitchers, not how many times the batters have struck out).  This is because rookies like Mark Rogers, Mike Fiers, and the recently-called up Wily Peralta have done their jobs in addition to veteran and de facto ace Yovani Gallardo (who’s had a brilliant second half; his record is 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 188 Ks), and because the much-maligned relievers have quietly pulled it together, with John Axford in particular pitching much better in the past thirty-five days or so, converting on all eleven of his last save attempts (he now has 29 saves out of 38 attempts, a 5-7 record, and his ERA has fallen to 4.76).  Without all of these pitchers doing their best, the Brewers would still be way under .500 and have no chance of the second wild card spot.

Better yet, Ryan Braun’s outstanding year has continued apace, even though Corey Hart has been out of the line-up and Aramis Ramirez’s year took a while to get started (as Ramirez is a notoriously slow starter, this wasn’t much of a surprise), so teams could and did pitch around Braun much of this season.  Despite that, Braun is batting .312 with 40 home runs, 103 runs batted in, and 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts.  Braun also has 201 career home runs with the Brewers, which leaves him fifth on the all-time list, tied with Cecil Cooper; Braun’s the sixth Brewer to reach the 200 HR plateau, and the seventh to hit 40 HRs in a season.

All of this makes for an exciting end to the 2012 season, and as a long-time Brewers fan, I’m extremely glad to see it.  (Go Brewers!)

Now, let’s talk about Brewers first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart.  Hart, unfortunately, has been out for a week with a sprained ankle and a partial tear in his plantar fascia, according to Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy.   That’s why he hasn’t pinch-hit; that’s why he’s not played the field; that’s why he’s had to rest and sit on the bench while having one of his better overall years despite his mid-season position switch from right field to first base (Hart’s stats stand with a .278 batting average, 27 HRs, 77 RBI, and 5 SBs in 5 attempts; as for his fielding stats, in 92 games played at first base, Hart has only 3 errors and a .996 fielding percentage).

Hart attempted to run the bases on Sunday and did not fare well according to McCalvy’s account.  Here’s a quote from that article:

“I’m definitely aiming for Tuesday, I just wish it would have felt better today than it did,” Hart said. “It’s a little frustrating. Today was the first day I tried to run the bases, and it didn’t go as planned.”

Running in a straight line was fine, but the trouble came when Hart ran along the arc along the outer edge of the infield dirt.

A bit later in the article, Hart said this:

“It’s tough, because I want to play,” Hart said. “I’ve played through a lot of injuries, but it’s one of those things where if I’m on first, I’m not going to be able to score on a double. If I’m on second, it’s going to be iffy to score on anything. Is it worth it to these guys? I feel like I wouldn’t be able to do everything I need to do.”

The last resort, Hart said, is an anti-inflammatory injection. The club’s medical officials on Sunday were mulling the pros and cons of that step.

Hart is extremely well-conditioned, a dedicated athlete, and a very good teammate, someone everyone on the Brewers, past or present, has liked — that’s not an easy feat, either, to be the guy everyone likes — and if he could get on the field, he’d be there, no questions asked.  But he’s obviously frustrated, as his quotes show . . . it’s not an easy thing to come up with a nasty injury toward the end of the season, especially when your team is still in the wild card chase.

My hope for Hart is that he heals quickly but doesn’t overstrain; even though the Brewers season is winding down and they do have a shot at the second wild card, the fact is that Hart is far more important to the Brewers in the long run, which is why he needs to put his long-term goals ahead of any short-term gains if those short-term gains will harm him.

Or to put it another way — I’d like to see Corey Hart play again this season, yes.  But only if he’s healthy.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

September 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm

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