The Brewers certainly aren’t surprising anybody inside their fan base with their performance this year.
As of May 24, they are playing exactly like they should be, as Milwaukee sits atop the National League Central Division, tied with St. Louis.
Ken Macha, who is in his first season in Milwaukee, is simply letting his players do what they do best; play baseball.
The weakest point for the Brewers however, will continue to be their starting pitchers, but that is actually the lone area that has been better than advertised so far.
When CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets left, analysts immediately wrote off the Brewers from contention. By adding only Braden Looper in the offseason didn’t seem to help Milwaukee’s case either.
If you really think about it, all five guys (Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra and Looper) have the opportunity the win 15 games, and Gallardo is an easy 20-game winner if he stays healthy this year.
That’s 80 wins right there. Throw in some more wins from the bullpen, as well as some ninth-inning heroics, and Milwaukee should reach the 90-win plateau for the second straight season. (I just hope I don’t jinx them by saying all of this).
The most important piece in the Brewers’ puzzle this year was a supposed “mistake” according to all the “experts”; the addition of 41-year old closer, Trevor Hoffman.
All he’s done is shut out opposing hitters in the ninth inning, going 11-for-11 in save opportunities, allowing just five hits, while walking no one. Oh yeah, his ERA is 0.00; not bad for a so-called ‘over-the-hill’ closer.
Sure, Hoffman’s fastball is nowhere near the 90-mph he used to throw (tops off around 85 now), but his change-up is still the best in the game.
When “Hell’s Bells” starts playing, the crowd goes crazy.
Fans never really have to worry about the Brewers’ offense, because they have plenty of power and speed, with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, no doubt, leading the way all year.
They were the two guys who carried the offense on their backs in September last year, and propelled Milwaukee into the playoffs.
Losing Rickie Weeks last week was certainly a tough blow, not only to that powerful offense, but to the defense as well. Weeks was finally starting to become the all around player that Milwaukee drafted in 2005.
Casey McGehee will get most of the starts at second base, and is out to prove that his big numbers in spring were no fluke.
Bill Hall continues to struggle (especially against right-handed pitchers), so look for hot prospect Mat Gamel to continue to get some quality playing time in the big leagues.
Craig Counsell will be the ‘merry-go-round’ guy in the infield, as he should get a couple of starts every week at various positions.
Someone does needs to step up and be able to jump-start that home run-hitting offense, because solo shots will only carry you so far.
In the first two weeks of this season, Milwaukee was at its lowest point at 4-9, but since then have been one of the hottest teams in all of baseball (at least until the recent trip to Minneapolis).
The Brewers got swept by their old American League rivals in the Minnesota Twins this past weekend, and were outscored 23-8 in the three-game series.
So are the Brewers about to fall off the mountain top?
It’s highly unlikely.
If anybody remembers, it was at about this time last year that the Brewers got swept in another interleague series, that time in Boston. Milwaukee then became one of the hottest teams once again.
Like the Boston series last year, I’m sure the Brewers will treat the Twins series as a kick in the pants, and find a way to get back on the right track.
The Brewers have yet another year of experience under their belts, and even if St. Louis, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh decides to make a run for the top, Milwaukee will surely be ready to defend its turf.
2008 was great for the entire city of Milwaukee, the state of Wisconsin and Brewers fans all over the country, but I have a feeling that ’09 should be even better.