Milwaukee Brewers: Are They Legitimate?

Milwaukee Brewers

22 games into the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers sit four and a half games ahead of the reigning National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Their record is 16-6, the best in the Major Leagues. Going into the season, experts predicted another three-horse race between the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds in the NL Central, but few people expected the Brewers to contend. However, three weeks into the season, the Brew Crew seems legitimate, as they are second in the National League in both ERA and OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging), signifying that they have been dominant on offense and defense. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be skeptical about Milwaukee’s hopes of contention in 2014.

In 2013, Milwaukee finished only above the Cubs in the Central, compiling a 74-88 record, good for a .457 winning percentage. Their pitching staff compiled a 3.84 ERA, which ranked ninth out of 15 teams in the National League. Although they were basically out of contention, the Brew Crew suffered a blow on July 22 when superstar outfielder Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season due to his involvement in the Biogenesis steroid scandal. Braun had been on MLB’s hit list ever since he avoided suspension in 2011 after a positive test because of a technicality. Nevertheless, the Brewers received a breakout performance from 27 year-old center fielder Carlos Gomez, who hit 24 home runs, stole 40 bases, and accounted for a 128 OPS+, meaning that he was 28 percent better than the average player in terms of on-base and slugging percentage. He accounted for a ridiculous 8.9 WAR, which usually puts a player in the MVP conversation. However, Gomez finished just ninth in the NL MVP voting, although he did make his first All-Star team and win his first Gold Glove.

In the offseason, the Brewers signed veteran Matt Garza to help the rotation led by Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse. This acquisition surprised baseball fans around the nation, as it seemed like a very “win now” move for a team that seemed to be in the process of rebuilding. Nevertheless, Milwaukee’s rotation of Lohse, Gallardo, Garza, Marco Estrada, and Wily Peralta actually seemed rather legitimate. Throughout the first few weeks of the young season, the Brewers have exceeded nearly all expectation with their rotation and virtually every other facet of the game.

Ryan Braun has rebounded well from his suspension with a .300/.348/.600 slash line through the early going. Carlos Gomez is proving that last season was not a fluke, as shown by his 144 OPS+ and five home runs. Beside from their superstars, the Brewers have gotten other contributions from guys like Jonathan Lucroy, Mark Reynolds, Aramis Ramirez, and no-name second baseman Scooter Gennett. Just 24 years of age, Gennett made an impression in 69 games last year, posting a .324/.356/.479 slash line. This season, Gennett has put up similar numbers, accumulating a 118 OPS+ so far, which is incredible for a middle infielder.

The pitching has also been unbelievable, as all starters besides Matt Garza have an ERA under 3. Garza’s ERA stands at a mediocre 4.50, but the complex statistics imply that he has been subject to some bad luck. In the bullpen, 32 year-old Francisco Rodriguez has shown up as his dominant self of old, as he has not allowed an earned run in twelve appearances and has already racked up 9 saves, leading the Major Leagues.

Right now, everything is clicking for the Milwaukee Brewers. However, it still seems unlikely that they will be a legitimate playoff contender in such a difficult division. In reality, Scooter Gennett is not a top-five second baseman, and Francisco Rodriguez is far removed from being the best closer in baseball. Nevertheless, the Brewers will be an interesting team to follow throughout the season. If Braun and Gomez continue on their respective paces, they will both be in the MVP conversation come September. The Brewers have undoubtedly been the biggest surprise in the early going of the 2014 season, but they have a tough test in the NL Central and the next few weeks will be a test of the their true ability.

Commentary By: Jough Brasch

Yahoo! Sports
Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

3 Responses to "Milwaukee Brewers: Are They Legitimate?"

  1. Jough Brasch   April 27, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Alright Connor here are some numbers:
    K-Rod’s has not accumulated 30 saves since 2009. Honestly, he hasn’t been a lights-out reliever since his age 26 season when he broke the record. Now, he’s 32 and he’s had a good month, and your argument is that this obviously contradicts the four full seasons of being a mediocre late-inning reliever. It’s not like K-Rod has been terrible, but he hasn’t been a dominant closer for a long, long time, and I struggle to think of examples of closers who have had the sort of renaissance that you believe K-Rod will sustain throughout the year.
    Gennett is a very good player, but his OPS hovered around .700 in the high minors, where he played a hell of a lot more than 80 games. I find it hard to believe that he’ll remain at an .800 OPS in the Major Leagues.
    Look, don’t get me wrong; I’d love to see the Brewers do well in the Central, but my argument is that statistics naturally regress toward the mean once there’s a big enough sample size. I’m a die-hard Rockies fan, but I fully understand that Charlie Blackmon is not Mike Trout.
    Man, your team is playing great and I’d love to see them keep it up, but I’m just trying to be realistic here, and there are plenty of numbers to “contraindicate” your claims.

  2. Conner David Boyd   April 26, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Also, they’ve faced off against he Pirates 7 times so far this season, and gone 6-1. Isn’t that supposed to be a tough test in the NL Central? The Cards took 2 of 3, but pitching was off that series, but okay. Fine. Give you the Cards. Even so, add in that win and two losses, plus the win against Chicago last night, they’re now 8-3 in the NL Central. The way the Reds have been playing, it’s going to be shocking if the Brewers don’t take at least 2 of 3 against them.

  3. Conner David Boyd   April 26, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Hey bud, how about some facts behind your realities in your last paragraph? Anything to support them? Because right now, Gennett IS one of the best second basement in baseball, and Rodriguez IS The best closer in baseball (and for that, it’s not even close).

    People like you praise the Brewers for getting off to a great start, having great pitching, and then slam into them for…well…no reason. Making up convoluted arguments like, “K-Rod is just hot.” Newsflash: We’re almost a month into the season, K-Rod is only improving, and he’s on pace to break his own single-season saves record. There is absolutely nothing to contraindicate that. And just because Gennett is a young guy who no one has really “heard of,” doesn’t mean he’s not going to end up being one of the best this year. His numbers last year and his numbers so far this year are on my side. That’s 80+ games worth of statistics. Care to argue?

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