CINCINNATI -- Try figuring this one out: The Brewers' offense is better without Prince Fielder.Fielder was a force in Milwaukee's lineup before departing via free agency for Detroit. The Brewers replaced him with third baseman Aramis Ramirez, whose terrific 2012 season is one big reason why Milwaukee, earlier on this road trip, surpassed two key totals from last year, when the team set a franchise record with 96 wins. Last Thursday in Pittsburgh, Ramirez's first-inning home run was the Brewers' 186th this season, one more than all of 2011. The next day in Washington, when the Brewers scored three runs in the ninth inning to stun the Nationals, they also pushed ahead of their run total from all of 2011 (721) with 12 games to play. They also have a better on-base plus slugging percentage. "Is the hitting guy getting any love for this?" asked another member of the staff. Hitting coach Johnny Narron, the subject of public criticism early in the year when the Brewers' offense was struggling, indeed deserves some credit for its turnaround. Beyond steady veterans Ramirez, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, the Brewers have gotten more than expected from center fielder Carlos Gomez, right fielder Norichika Aoki and catcher Martin Maldonado, to name a few. But several players insisted they were not surprised by the post-Prince numbers. "I thought we would be good when we picked up [Ramirez]," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He's right up there with the best power hitters in this league. After playing against him for two years already, I knew how good a hitter he was, and with everyone else coming back with the exception of Prince, I had a feeling we would be pretty good." Said Hart, who began the year as the right fielder but moved to first base: "I think [Ramirez] has had a bigger year than a lot of people expected. You figure he would step in and fill the big hole, and it turns out his year has been just as good as Prince's year. Then everyone else who has stepped in for us has found a way to contribute."
Plan for Fiers, Peralta subject to change
CINCINNATI -- Rookie right-hander Wily Peralta is scheduled for two more starts and Mike Fiers for one, but the plan is subject to change based on the Brewers' place in the standings, manager Ron Roenicke said Wednesday.Club officials have closely monitored both rookies' workloads, particularly Fiers, who has struggled down the stretch at the same time he pushes into uncharted innings. Roenicke was asked whether Fiers' final scheduled start on Sunday against the Astros at Miller Park depended on the Brewers being alive in the National League Wild Card race. "I don't know. I can't answer that," Roenicke said. "When that time comes, we'll probably talk about a couple things with a couple pitchers. Hopefully, we don't have to think about that." In other words, he hopes the Brewers stay alive in the hunt for the NL's second Wild Card. The Cardinals held that spot entering Wednesday night, with a 4 1/2-game lead over both the Brewers and Dodgers. Fiers, 27, is up to 176 2/3 regular-season innings between Triple-A Nashville and Milwaukee, compared to 128 innings in 2011, plus 28 1/3 innings in Venezuela last winter for a total of 154 1/3. Peralta, 23, has thrown 170 1/3 regular-season innings entering his outing against the Reds on Thursday, versus 175 2/3 innings last year (150 2/3 in the U.S. plus 25 innings in the Dominican Republic). He is in line to pitch again on Tuesday against the Padres in the penultimate game of the regular season. Mark Rogers, shut down earlier this month in a preemptive move, is not an option to start again if someone like Fiers or Peralta is instructed to call it a season, Roenicke said. Those duties would fall instead to Tyler Thornburg, Josh Stinson or Livan Hernandez.
Roenicke made clear he disagreed with one of the persistent theories of Fiers' steady decline -- that his trademark deceptive delivery is less effective the more opponents see it."I just know, as a hitter, I know when there's deception there, that deception doesn't go away because you've seen a guy six times, nine times," Roenicke said. "Now, if you saw a guy 100 times, OK, I've got to believe that you're going to get used to that weird 'whatever' he's doing. But you don't see a guy enough at-bats to say, 'OK, I've got him now.'" Roenicke used Angels right-hander Jered Weaver as an example. His velocity is down to 88-89 mph, Roenicke said, versus 92-95 mph when Weaver arrived in the Majors. "Isn't he still a great pitcher?" Roenicke said. "And he's lost a lot of 'stuff,' but the deception is what bothers everybody." The Brewers Community Foundation is auctioning a chance to spend Halloween with all five members of the Klement's Famous Racing Sausages. Beginning Thursday, fans can visit brewers.com to participate in an online auction, with the top bidder winning the opportunity to trick-or-treat in their local neighborhood with the Brewers mascots. The "Trick-or-Treat Auction" begins Thursday at noon CT and concludes on Thursday, Oct. 11 at noon. The auction starts at $250, with bid increments of $25.