Brewers Solid Through 32 Games
- Updated: May 13, 2009
At 18-14, and having won 16 of their last 21 games, the Milwaukee Brewers are quickly making their fans forget about their 3-8 start and have them thinking more about a return trip to the post-season.
While it shouldn’t be overlooked that this team is 11-12 against teams above .500 and is 5-0 against Pittsburgh, the schedule is not their problem. What was considered a problem in the off-season was how this team was going to perform without two of their top starters returning to the rotation. Step in Yovani Gallardo, a strong performance from their bullpen thus far, a lineup that is producing 4.9 runs per game and you have a team that is as hot as any in Major League Baseball.
Gallardo, Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and newcomer Braden Looper form a staff that leads the league in quality starts (19), is second with an opponent’s batting average of .241 and is fourth in WHIP at 1.33. Out of the bullpen Mark DiFelice, Seth McClung, Todd Coffey and Mitch Stetter have all given up 18 earned runs in 58 games and with Trevor Hoffman now healthy and having saved five games in five chances, the Brewers have arms they can rely on, something that was of major concern entering 2009.
On offense, there was only confidence heading into the season. It was said over and over again that this team would score runs, and a lot of them. So far the offense has fared well, scoring 158 in their 32 games to date, good for fourth in the NL. How are they doing it? Not with small ball that’s for sure. The Brewers rank seventh in the NL in average at .258 as a team, but what they lack in that category they make up for in power. Milwaukee has hit 40 home runs, led by Ryan Braun’s eight and Rickie Weeks’ seven. Even Gallardo has found his power stroke, knocking two out of the yard this season, including one that proved to be the lone run in a 1-0 eight inning gem versus the Pirates.
In the spirit of the Baseball Reflections theme it is hard to not consider how much Ryan Braun means to this team, sabermetrically speaking. Anchored in the middle of this powerful lineup Braun has the potential to change a game at any moment, something he proved against the Cubs on Friday night with a go ahead two run homer in the eighth inning. Braun is fifth in runs created (30.4) behind only Jason Bay, Albert Pujols, Victor Martinez and Evan Longoria and he is fourth in runs created per 27 outs at 10.93. If you take Braun out of this lineup they are only hitting .247 and he is currently hitting .429 in May.
Rickie Weeks has also been a catalyst for this team. A career .247 hitter, Weeks is being counted on to have a breakout season in 2009. So far he is doing just that. At .277 with seven home runs and 21 RBI and 24 runs scored Rickie is providing something this team sorely missed during his previous season’s struggles, a lead off man to set the table for guys like Braun and Prince Fielder. He is second on the team in hits with 36.
This team looks to be a contender in a division that seems to be up for grabs, for now. Solid starting pitching and timely big hits have them right in the mix now. The Cubs have faced massive injury issues, and despite the Cardinals fast start they are just two games ahead of Milwaukee. And you can’t forget about Cincinnati, who seems to have some strong arms in their rotation as well and some young talent in the lineup.
The Brewers now enter a tough stretch in which they will play three with Florida before heading out of Milwaukee for a nine game trip through St. Louis (first series of the season), Houston and Minnesota. They come home to three more against the Cardinals and three with Cincinnati. We’ll see exactly what this team is made of in the weeks to come. Too bad you can’t play Pittsburgh every day.