If the Milwaukee Brewers are to continue to battle for a Central Division title – ‘if’ being the key word here – it is going to be a roller-coaster season.
One of the major reasons with the Brewers being in first place is a World Series hangover by the team 90 miles south. The Cubs are starting to wake up and anyone who thinks the Brewers match up with their talent, please stop reading right here.
I picked the Brewers to win 78 games. The fact that they have won 32 games on June 9 is amazing. The bottom line is this. They will have to win the division to make the playoffs, because there are too many good teams in the Eastern and especially Western Divisions to win a wild card spot.
In every area, the Brewers are having a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season. Let’s take a look.
HITTING — David Stearns has done well with the offense. Corners Eric Thames and Travis Shaw and catchers Jett Bandy/Manny Pina have excelled. When healthy – which is not often – Ryan Braun is still one of the better hitters around – and it looks like Domingo Santana is coming into this own.
SS Orlando Arcia is holding down the fort on defense and I don’t expect him to be more than a .250 hitter this year. But the improvement is there.
That leaves Jonathan Villar at 2B and Keon Broxton in CF with disappointing seasons so far. Eric Sogard has been ridiculous in a good way filling in all over as has the always reliable Hernan Perez. Jesus Aguilar at 1B, who has struggled defensively lately, but not enough to be worried, has been a key bat.
The Brewers fast starts have been talked about a lot, but they have a tendency to shut off the offense down the stretch, especially with RISP.
MY THOUGHTS — It’s not a perfect world, but this offense is fun to watch, knowing there are reinforcements around the corner.
STARTING PITCHING — As of June 9, the jury is still out on this staff. I like Junior Guerra and Zach Davies – but as fourth/fifth starters on a decent team (not a title team). I feel this is it for Jimmy Nelson. Hopefully he feels the same way. He is really up and down, pitching well lately.
Matt Garza when healthy – like Braun, not healthy enough – has changed his way of pitching (adjusting from power to change of pace and control). I admire him for being able to do it and hope it lasts. Most importantly if he can’t be traded, he’s gone after this year.
Then there is Chase Anderson, who is going for Teddy Higuera’s team consecutive shutout record. He started strong, slumped badly and now he’s like “Who is this guy?” Man has been fantastic lately.
MY THOUGHTS — Sorry people. But there is no way I can see this rotation line up in a playoff series and be successful.
BULLPEN — Oh my goodness, I feel bad for Craig Counsell. Corey Knebel is the only one of eight relievers I have any confidence in. Jacob Barnes is the next best hurler, but there is a gap between him and Knebel.
Now the tough question. Please raise your hand if you feel brimming with confidence when Oliver Drake, Jared Hughes, Wily Peralta, Neftali Perez, Rob Scahill or Carlos Torres enters the game – no matter what the score.
I’m sure not too many hands went up.
MY THOUGHTS — No matter what the house line is about some of their righthanders can get lefties out – they have trouble getting right-handed hitters out. Somewhere they need a lefthander.
You can get one like Brad Hand of San Diego, who is rumored to be on the market, although the Padres would sooner trade closer Brandon Maurer, but Hand would cost an arm and a leg. Lefthanders are hard to find and expensive.
Or you can look to within. If you are limiting Josh Hader’s innings now to 2 innings an outing at Colorado Springs to save his arm, let him do that in the big leagues and keep an eye on him.
I remember when I worked with the Brewers. Dan Plesac was coming off a 12-5, 4.97 ERA season at Double A El Paso. Manager George saw him in his first spring training and was impressed by his stuff. Bambi said let’s use him in the bullpen and keep an eye on him instead of sending him out and Plesac never went back to the minors again.
I see a possibility of doing this with Hader.
BOTTOM LINE — I have said ‘enjoy the moment’ because I don’t feel the Brewers are going to make the playoffs. I have hardly missed a game. I do get upset because I care. When they mess up big time like walking the opposing pitcher on 4 pitches – or to strike out on a pitch a foot outside the strike zone – I go nuts on Twitter.
I hope Stearns sticks to his guns and doesn’t trade a good prospect if the Brewers are close. If he trades the farm to improve this team I would be disappointed.
The Brewers are ahead of schedule, which means the plan is working. Stick to it.