Ryan Braun has not homered since June 14, a stretch of nine games.
Before that blast, Braun went through an 11-game homerless span. Together, those streaks have resulted in a two home run month so far in June, after the Milwaukee Brewers slugger tallied just a pair in May as well.
It’s not the worst low power stretch of Braun’s career. In fact, just last year he managed just two home runs in May and none the rest of the season. But it is a cause for concern.
Early in the season, the health of Braun’s thumb was a major question mark. He seemed to answer those questions, though, by hitting six home runs and slugging .600 over his first 20 games of the year.
But then he went on the disabled list with an oblique injury. Over 38 games since his return, Braun has put the ball over the fence just four times while slugging .428 with 17 extra-base hits and 32 strikeouts.
Braun is in a significant slump, and he’s said that he wants to hit his way out of it. But that slump dates back more than two months.
Going back over his last 100 games, Braun has connected for just 12 home runs, 25 doubles and five triples while batting .285/.344/.473, well below his career slash line of .310/.379/.551.
What’s causing the slump?
Some critics might point to Braun’s positive drug test in 2011 and say the drop off in power is related. Not likely.
Can it be attributed to the thumb injury? Not entirely, but it’s certainly played a major role. More importantly, if the thumb is becoming an issue again, letting Braun swing his way out of the slump isn’t likely to be effective.
onathan Lucroy is unlikely to start the All-Star Game.
But he very well could be the National League MVP.
Despite outperforming all other catchers by a wide margin, Lucroy is a longshot to be voted in by the fans. Instead, he’ll have to rely on his fellow players or Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to select him for the NL squad.
Meanwhile on the field, Lucroy has been the Milwaukee Brewers’ best player and among the NL elite.
Lucroy is batting .341/.405/.536 with eight home runs, 34 RBIs and a league-best 89 hits and 28 multi-hit games. Entering Wednesday, he had a WAR of either 3.9 or 3.4 — depending on your source — both of which rank third-best in the NL and considerably better than that of any other catcher in the majors.
Lucroy also is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, especially in the art of pitch framing.
And if all that weren’t enough, he also showed Tuesday night how he can come through in the clutch.
After reliever Evan Marshall loaded the bases by drilling slugger Ryan Braun, the first pitch Lucroy saw from Brad Ziegler was crushed over the fence for an emphatic go-ahead grand slam. It turned out to be the game-winner, while making Arizona manager Kirk Gibson look silly in the process.
Lucroy may not be an All-Star starter. But he and the Brewers have their eyes on much bigger prizes.
No pitcher has given up more home runs this season than Marco Estrada. And it’s not even close.
Estrada has watched 20 balls fly over the fence, five more than Rockies starter Juan Nicasio. And 11 of Nicasio’s 15 have come in the mile-high thin air of Coors Field.
So what’s the problem?
Command and aggressiveness appear to be among the primary issues. In addition to the home runs, Estrada’s walk totals are up as well, a sign that he may not be attacking the zone the way he needs to be successful.
The right-hander has issued 27 free passes this year, including 13 in his last five starts. Over that stretch, Estrada has given up 22 runs on 29 hits — including 10 home runs — with a 6.67 ERA in 29 2/3 innings.
Remarkably, the Brewers actually won two of those games.
After giving up two more blasts Tuesday, Estrada became one of just nine pitchers in franchise history to give up home runs in 10 straight starts, putting him on a dubious list that includes the likes of Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke indicated following the game that Estrada may be relocated outside the starting rotation soon. Given the success Jimmy Nelson has had both at Triple-A and in the majors this year, he’s the obvious choice as a replacement.
And Nelson should get that call.
At the very least, Nelson ought to make a start or two while Estrada tries to sort things out either in the bullpen or on the disabled list. Maybe an injury is causing his struggles. Maybe it’s a release point issue. Maybe it’s a mental thing.
Whatever it is, the home runs will continue to fly until Estrada figures it out.
Give Ron Roenicke credit.
For a manager that has a National League Central title on his resume, he doesn’t get enough of it. But one of his recent moves — of which I was skeptical at the time — is paying off in a big way.
Two weeks ago, Roenicke shuffled the Brewers’ lineup, moving shortstop Jean Segura to the leadoff spot and dropping Carlos Gomez from first to cleanup. Between them, slugger Ryan Braun slid up to second and catcher Jonathan Lucroy filled Braun’s usual No. 3 spot.
The results have made Roenicke look brilliant.
In the first 13 games with Segura leading off, the Brewers have averaged 5.84 runs, while posting games of 11, 9 and 8 runs. Over their first 47 games this season, the Brewers averaged just 3.79 runs per game, with four games in which they scored eight or more.
Individually, each of the four batters at the top of the Milwaukee lineup has flourished since the change.
Segura, Braun and Gomez have hit between 40 and 60 points better than their season averages since relocating within the lineup. And all four batters have produced more extra-base hits, combining for 17 doubles, three triples and five home runs over the last two weeks.
Even slotting Aramis Ramirez in the No. 5 spot looked brilliant with the Brewers third baseman slugging a three-run homer in his return to the lineup Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
It’s all still a very small sample size, and the results very well may be coincidental.
But the Brewers’ offense has finally started to break out. And their new-look lineup seems as likely a cause as any.