Over the first 20 games there have been a few noticeable differences in the Crew under Ken Macha and his outstanding coaching staff. First and foremost, hitting coach Dale Svuem seems to have had a big impact on what can tend to be a free swinging team.
The Brewers have been very adept at laying off the down and away slider and other various un-hittable pitches. As a whole they have been willing to accept their walks, and in turn, it forces pitchers to challenge hitters lie Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Bill Hall. All of whom can turn around a fastball with the best of them.
Kudos also has to go to Hall's optometrist whose performance during Lasik surgery has transformed Hall at the plate. Hall trying not to pull everything helps as well.
Macha not Yost
After getting blown out by the Phillies last Tuesday, things looked bleak for the Brewers. It wasn't just the losing that was bothersome, the nature of that loss in particular was quite concerning. Ned Yost in the past would have stated that everything is all right and things will even out eventually. Macha on the other hand, when asked about Jason Kendall's early season struggles, lobbed out a bit of a salvo, declaring that we wouldn't be talking about Kendall's struggles if the three, four and five hitters were producing.
Since that point, coupled with the move of Mike Cameron into the five hole, very few pitchers have been able to get Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder out. It wasn't a direct shot across the bow, but sometimes players need a little kick in the butt and appreciate a manager will do so discretely.
Bullpen shaping up
It is a welcome sight to see Trevor Hoffman jog out of the bullpen with sounds of "Hells Bells" in the background. Not so much in that Hoffman will be the dominant force of old, but his presence has a trickle down effect through the rest of the bullpen. This allows Todd Coffey, who has been dominant, to claim the eighth. It also allows the combination of Villanueva and Stetter to get through the seventh.
Yet to be mentioned is this year's most pleasant surprise. Mike DeFelice has thrown the ball amazingly well, winning him a spot in the bullpen. He has pitched so well that he is slowly making his case to challenge the likes of Villanueva for more important innings. The addition of a changeup to DiFelice's repertoire has made him more apt to face lefties -- coupled with a very good cutter and his ability to drop down on his cutter has proven to be successful for the 32 year-old rookie.
Another welcome change from the Yost era has been Macha's tendency to fill out his lineup card and hit repeat. I have never been a fan of constant changing lineups and batting orders. Players like their routine. I don't particularly care if so and so is 5 for 11 off of this particular lefty, during the day, after and off day, on the road, on Tuesdays in cities that start with the letter C.
The Brewers have a set lineup without any platoons, and Macha needs to ride his horses. They are a relatively young team so rest is not that big of an issue. Not to mention, the two older regulars, Cameron and Kendall, are probably the two most-fit players on the team.
That being said, the bench need to get used to not getting too many at bats. Not to mention their production hasn't exactly garnered a need for playing time either. Excluding Craig Counsell, most of the bench's hits came from Casey McGehee.
Brad Nelson, whom had a great spring, is obviously off to a rough start. The other night he was basically thrown to the wolves pinch hitting in the 7th against lefty reliever Sean Burnett. Not exactly the ideal situation to break out of a slump. With Mike Rivera getting hurt In the 4th, the Brewers only remaining right hander on the bench was McGehee, but he also serves as the emergency backup catcher so Macha had to go to Nelson. Nelson struck out, but I am not sure what booing a rookie that gets forced into a tough position is going to accomplish. This isn't Philly.