I know it sounds crazy, and I feel a little taken back that I am able to make this statement, especially in a division that hosts the red-hot Cardinals, the defending champ Cubs, the pitcher-perfect Pirates (I know, that was corny), the up-and-coming Reds, and the veteran Astros.
Every once in a while (I might make it a once a week thing on strotty.wordpress.com), I will just go on somewhat of a rant that does not have a ton of stats in it. It will be based on gut feelings and whatever is at the top of my head at the time.
So without further ado, in the first ever Strotty rant, here’s why I think the Milwaukee Brewers can be on top of the NL Central standings at the end of the year:
They are proving early that they can win in close games (9-6 in games decided by three runs or less). The bullpen was extremely shaky going into the season and couldn’t get anyone out the first couple weeks.
Since then, they have been lights out and have been throwing strikes at a great rate. Mark DiFelice has been stellar, Trevor Hoffman is healthy, Todd Coffey is the perfect set-up man, and everyone else is calming down.
The starting rotation was laughable to many after the losses of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, but Yovani Gallardo and Braden Looper are quickly making Brewers fans forget about them.
Gallardo, since his blowup against Cincinnati, is 2-0 and has given up two earned runs in 23 innings. Oh yeah, and has a 25/3 strikeout ratio over that three game span. This year’s Cole Hamels, anyone?
The Brewers have won all four starts from Braden Looper, as he stands with a 2-0 record. Manny Parra is 0-4 on the year but has pitched just one time at home where his ERA was considerably lower last year (3.41 compared to 5.70 away from Miller Park).
Parra’s next two starts will be at home and hopefully he can get some confidence back that he had early last year.
Jeff Suppan’s control was A TON better Thursday night, as he did not issue a walk in 6.1 innings. He fell behind in some counts but used his defense instead of giving out free passes.
We can only hope that the opening day starter will keep that control. Dave Bush has three quality starts in this early season and has pitched fine for a fifth starter and will continue to do so as we should see numbers similar to last years.
As if the pitching for the Brewers has not been good enough, as a whole the hitting for the Brewers has been excellent as well. Staying true to last year’s form, the batting average is down but the power is up and has led to good numbers for the Crew.
The Brewers are fifth in the National League in slugging, tied for first in home runs, and despite being 11th in batting average, are seventh in on base percentage.
Rickie Weeks is putting up stellar numbers, and I do not think it is out of question to consider him an All-Star this year...remember I said that.
Corey Hart has become much more disciplined at the plate, as seen by his walks. Hart walked 27 times all of last year and already has 12 in 2009. One would think this number would not be high with Ryan Braun and Fielder behind him, but his patience has gone a long way and has helped the offense.
Braun has been incredibly streaky but is still putting up all star numbers and gets the job done on a given night. Fielder has struggled and one can hope that he gets out of his funk, especially against left handers.
Mike Cameron has been the big surprise in the lineup this year, hitting .333 on the year and coming up with big hit after big hit.
If Cameron does not get the award for surprise hitter of the year, Bill Hall should.
Known for his solid hitting against lefties, Hall has once again dominated the southpaws with a .455 batting average against them. Batting in front of Jason Kendall will not get him many good pitches to hit, but he has taken advantage of the ones he does get.
Look, there is a very good possibility that the Brewers do not win the Central this year, and I am well aware of that. It’s just that there a few things that I see that make me believe.
First, I would be hard-pressed to find a team that has more fun playing during a game than the Brewers do. And the Brew Crew is also a team that can turn it on during crunch time. They never panic or try to do more than they are expected to do as individual players.
The defense has been stellar this year, Bill Hall especially, and much credit can be given to Willie Randolph for that. Basically having two managers on the bench is huge for the Brewers.
And it has shown.
Speaking of managers, Ken Macha is starting to get the feel of the National League style and it has translated into wins.
I would like to see more aggressive base running, like when the Brewers stole four bases on opening day, but now I am just getting picky.
It will be interesting to see how this team does in the long run but the core of the team is playing great baseball right now, and it has them feeling pretty good about their position in the NL Central. Only time will tell...