For the most part, the narrative for the Milwaukee Brewers this season consisted of a roster that would be lucky to scrounge up 60 wins with a below average lineup and an atrocious rotation. The Cubs could waltz their way back into the playoffs, and the Brewers and Reds would mingle to see which team could finish worse.
However, as of May 19, they are 24-18 with a +31 run differential that is 6th best in the MLB. They lead the NL Central by only a game, but in no circumstance did anyone see this coming.
Well, maybe one person, Eric Thames.
For the first month of the season, he was clearly the best hitter in baseball. Coming from playing minor league baseball in Asia, his discipline at the plate had exponentially improved from his previous performances in the Major Leagues. During his historic smashing from April 13 to April 25, he hit .395/.542/1.108 with 10 HRs, 17 RBIs, and 21 Runs scored.
Thames new perspective on plate discipline in April sparked his pleasing welcome from the Brewers back in the MLB. His strikeout rate had dropped from 22.0% to 13.8% with his walk rate increasing from 5.8% to 18.0%.
Fortunately for the Brewers, he has not been the only player cultivating productive numbers towards their success.
The Brewers are one of the best teams in the MLB in slugging percentage, home runs, total bases, RBIs, runs, and on-base slugging percentage. It really cannot get much better for them offensively.
Travis Shaw continues to play out of his mind, and with Ryan Braun out of the lineup, Hernan Perez picked up the slack tremendously to sustain the production.
If their offense can consistently register high run totals per game that will beautifully lead them towards a continued healthy winning percentage. With the Naftalí castatrophe out of the closing picture, their risks of blowing save opportunities have dramatically decreased with Cory Knebal at the helm.
As of now, the only real wound of this offensive giant is not the offensive itself: it is the starting rotation.
So far they have lucked out with solid outings from Chase Anderson and Matt Garza, but Zach Davies’s performances have been scary ugly. This year was expected to arouse questions of Davies being a dependable ace for the Brewers.
However, his poor ERA and sub-par whip say otherwise with an underwhelming 40.7% ground ball rate. His changeup has not puzzled hitters to the extent it has in past years setting himself to have to depend on his two-seam fastball to get him through innings.
Possibly, if the Brewers are still in playoff contention in July, I would not be surprised if they look for rotation help to minimize Davies’s starts as the playoffs near.
This team might display an offensive giant, but it shows they will need to be highly dependent on it. No way does depending on offense make them susceptible entirely from earning a playoff slot, but it does lessen their chances especially with a pleading need for better starting pitching.
The Orioles have been that team in the past to make the playoffs with sub-par pitching, a strong bullpen, and home-run friendly offense. But, with so many unproven players, Ryan Braun on the DL, and one of the worst strikeout rates in baseball, are the playoffs realistic for this team?
Their diamond in the rough, Eric Thames, is going to need to come back with an answer, and it will need to be better than the one in May.
Thames’ performance in April was extraordinary, but May has been nothing more than average. With .250/.365/.455 and a strikeout rate that has skyrocketed back to 23.1%, his dependability is definitely in question.
Other than himself and Ryan Braun, the Brewers’ lineup lacks extraordinary power. Travis Shaw has proven otherwise, but his performance this year signals similarities to last year starting hot and cooling down after the All-Star break.
Jonathan Villar’s slump has not infected the team’s lineup woes as of yet especially with Eric Sogard coming out of the minors hot as Hell to replace Villar at second base.
Sogard’s two four hit games definitely foreshadow flashes of the team the Brewers might have in the future but not in 2017.
They just aren’t ready with such a problem at starting pitching, they will have to hit near 250 home runs to continue this run, but that means there is a 50 homer-hitter somewhere on the roster.
Quite frankly, I don’t see one.
The Brewers may seek a stronger bat to boost their power, if it begins to collapse in a month or so.
On the contrary, they should not trade the farm for any one batter hoping to accelerate the process of becoming a contending franchise. There most likely will not be anybody at the deadline worth doing that for anyway.
Milwaukee might not make the playoffs this year, but they will definitely scrounge up more than 60 wins especially if the Cubs continue to display average pitching performances.
In no way can the Brewers be eradicated from playoff conversation, but if that offense starts to fluster, the Brewers will be in some trouble.
As of right now, it doesn’t seem like a 50 homer-hitter that hits around .280 to lead the Brewers to their first playoffs since 2011.
Well there may be one person, Eric Thames.