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Brewers series preview: The Yost returns

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Ned Yost's first gig as a Major League manager came with the Milwaukee Brewers, who he skippered from 2003-2008. Over his six seasons, the Brewers went from a 90-loss dormat to Division Champs, although just two weeks before the Brewers began their playoff run, they stunned the baseball world by dumping Yost as manager in favor of Dale Sveum (now Kansas City's hitting instructor).

The 2008 Brewers were quickly bounced from the playoffs, and the team floundered under new skipper Ken Macha. They won 96 games and reached the National League Championship Series in 2011 under manager Ron Roenicke, but the team has failed to win more than 83 games since then and completely collapsed last year after being in first place all summer. This year, the bottom has fallen out, as gambles on players like C.C. Sabathia (costing them Michael Brantley), Zack Greinke (costing them Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jake Odorozzi), and Shaun Marcum (costing them Brett Lawrie) have depleted their farm system.

Milwaukee lost 13 of their first 15 games this season, ultimately costing Roenicke his job on May 3. They have gone 17-22 under new manager Craig Counsell, but still have the second-worst record in all of baseball at 24-40. They have given up 64 more runs than they have scored and won just five series all year.

The Brewers are averaging just 3.66 runs per game, second-worst in the league. They are last in the league in on-base percentage, third-from-last in slugging, third-from last in walks, and third in most strikeouts. They have been perhaps a bit unlucky, as their team BABIP of .279 is the second-lowest in the league. In particular, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Scooter Gennett have been hit by the BABIP fairy hard and should regress upward to the mean.

Adam Lind has been the Brewers best hitter this year, although he is hitting just .240/.307/.365 over his last 31 games. He is also very vulnerable to left-handed pitching, with an OPS of just .588 against southpaws in his career, compared to .862 against right-handers. All-Star third baseman Aramis Ramirez has gotten off to a dreadful start at age 37. Outfielder Khris Davis has been out since the end of May with a knee injury.

The Brewers are not much of a threat to steal, swiping just 22 bases as a team, with only three players - Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, and Ryan Braun - having stolen more than one base this season. Overall, they are a poor baserunning team, and their -3.5 Baserunning Runs is the third-worst in the league. Defensively the Brewers are below-average, with the fourth-worst Defensive Runs Saved in the National League at -14. Gerardo Parra, once an outstanding Gold Glove-winning outfielder, has shown sharp declines the last two seasons on defense.

Only the Rockies have given up more runs in the National League than the Brewers. The Brew Crew has the fourth-best strikeout rate in the league, but has given up the most home runs. Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse are beginning to look like expensive busts in the rotation, combining to make $23.5 million this year for a 5.53 ERA. Garza has seen his velocity drop and his once-solid slider has become very hittable. Lohse has always been a "pitch-to-contact" flyball pitcher who has seen balls leave the park at an alarming rate this year.

The 30-year old Mike Fiers has struck out well over a hitter per inning (9.7 strikeouts-per-nine innings) in 48 career starts, but has never been able to put it all together for a full season. Rookie Jimmy Nelson has already lost 16 games in the first 27 games of his Major League career and his 93 mph fastball has been hittable, but he does boast a very good slider.

The Brewers pen has been good with a 3.28 ERA, in the middle of the pack for the league. They are the second-best at striking hitters out, but have the third-worst home run rate. Former Royals lefty Will Smith has fared well aside from his suspension for foreign substances. Other former Royals like Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Broxton have had mixed results but have racked up strikeouts. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is a perfect 13-for-13 in save opportunities this year with a 1.13 ERA and just 12 hits allowed in 24 innings.

The Brewers are a bad team, but have just enough talent that they could still give a team fits. The pitching matchups should provide a good opportunity for the Royals bats to come out of their slump, however the Royals may want to get to the starters before the pen comes into the game. With National League rules, Ned Yost's managing should be a factor as well, with Ned likely eager to show the Brewers their error in firing him.