Coming into the 2009 season, the Milwaukee Brewers trotted the exact same starting lineup out to the field that they had for the most part last season.
While this was a worry to some—that the Brewers relied on pitching to get them to the playoffs last year and C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets were now gone—the hitting has proved to fare much better this year and is winning games for the second-place Brewers.
After putting his slow start behind him, Ryan Braun leads the way with eight homers and 28 runs batted in. 12 games into the year, Braun was batting .222 with just one home run and five RBI. Then, a five-for-five, two home run game against the Phillies sparked a run for Braun that he has not stopped.
He is currently batting .429 in the month of May and is slugging .627. His on-base percentage on the year stands at .463, good for fifth in the NL. Braun will have to continue his stellar play if the Brewers are going to battle for the NL Central, and all signs point to him doing so.
Milwaukee’s next bright spot in the lineup is Mike Cameron. The 36-year-old is on pace to have his best year in the majors, both at the plate and in the field. For a three-time Gold Glove winner, that is saying something.
Cameron began the year in the sixth spot behind J.J. Hardy, but combined with his great hitting and Hardy’s struggles at the plate, Cameron was bumped up to the fifth spot in the order. Batting behind Braun and Prince Fielder definitely has its advantages, as Cameron has knocked in 12 of his 18 runs in the five hole.
One of the players under the biggest pressure to perform this year was Rickie Weeks, and he has delivered on that. From the lead-off spot, Weeks has seven homers, good for second on the team, and 21 RBI and is slugging a career-best .492.
The mark of a good lead-off man is how many times he scores, and Weeks stands at eighth in the NL, crossing the plate 24 times.
Weeks has improved his patience up at the plate but still tends to be too aggressive at the plate sometimes. He has just 10 walks on the year to 32 strikeouts, giving him a .312 BB/K ratio, much lower than his career .492 mark.
While the stats do not do him justice, Bill Hall has also gotten off to a quick start for the Brewers. He has just eight RBI on the year, but batting behind J.J. Hardy (batting .208) and in front of Jason Kendall (batting .234) and the pitcher spot, Hall rarely sees good pitches to hit.
He is batting .292 on the year, a career best, and has improved his play in the field as well at third base.
Corey Hart has seen great pitches batting in front of Braun and Fielder and has reaped the benefits of getting on base with them up. He is fourth in the National League with 25 runs scored and has played great all-around baseball.
Hart has done a much better job laying off sliders outside of the zone, something he has struggled with his whole career.
With the good comes the bad for the Brewers, as a few players have struggled early. Prince Fielder is batting just .255 and has a team-high 35 strikeouts. He leads the team with 27 walks but has not provided the timely hitting we are accustomed to seeing from the hefty first baseman.
J.J. Hardy has started to find his groove, as he is batting .345 in the month of May, but it will take more consistency from him to overcome his awful April.
As a whole, the Brewers strength lies in their ability to hit the long ball. They rank second in the National League with 40 home runs, trailing only Philadelphia.
They rank fourth in total bases with 463 and are second with 105 extra base hits. Their team batting average of .272 has improved over the course of the year and is now good for seventh in the National League.
As strong as they have been in those regards, the Brewers face the same issues that they did last year. They rank second in strikeouts with 261 fans and have stolen just 10 bases, with four coming on opening day.
Their stolen base percentage is .526 percent, which ranks dead last in the National League.
The Brewers lineup is one of the best in the National League this year and will continue to play at that rate. They have been more patient at the plate this year averaging 4.3 walks per game, a number that has significantly increased from last year’s 3.39 mark per game.
With the starting pitching giving good innings and the bullpen being lights out as of late, the Brewers have a very good shot to compete in the NL Central, and this lineup is one of the reasons why.