A month ago, optimistic Milwaukee Brewers fans insisted it wasn't too brash to predict that their team would be in the thick of the National League's Central division race with St. Louis and Cincinnati. Today, they're watching games through their fingers and avoiding the daily injury reports.
The Brewers are 2-5 in May, averaging under three runs per game and hitting just .214 as a team. Their 71 total bases this month are humiliating compared to division-leading St. Louis' 150. On the season, Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan own sub-.200 averages, while Corey Hart's commitment to developing his power has resulted in a .240 average.
Adding injury to insult, the Brewers have lost Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez, two of the bats they were relying on, for the rest of the season with torn ACLs. Carlos Gomez is on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury, and Ryan Braun is trying to ignore a nagging pain in his Achilles tendon.
Making the situation seem even more hopeless, four of Milwaukee's top five minor league prospects, as ranked by MLB.com, are pitchers. The only hitter is third baseman Taylor Green, the Brewers' top minor league player a year ago. Green was called up from Nashville this week and will get a look at first base along with Brooks Conrad and Travis Ishikawa. If fans didn't think they were going to miss Prince Fielder this year, they might change their minds after sizing up that trio.
Suddenly, concerns about holes in the pitching staff have become secondary to questions about run production. And with the future in that department looking particularly bleak, it's hard not to view last season's playoff run as a unique occurrence rather than a stepping stone to perennial competitiveness.