Alright, so the Brewers’ chances of making another run at the postseason this year seem about as good as Tiger and Elin reconciling.
At 28-37, the Crew may sit just eight games back off the pacesetters of the NL Central—the Reds and the Cardinals—and may remain tantalizingly within reach of being within reach for a few months to come.
But realistically, most Brewers’ fans have resigned themselves to the fact that the pitching staff is simply not talented enough, deep enough, or consistent enough to put together enough quality starts to get the team back in the hunt.
In short, the Brewers are probably safe making vacation plans for early October.
Yet I am not here to belabor the shortcomings—or short ceiling—of this year’s team, for all is not bleak in the Brew City.
We all knew the Brewers feature a lineup capable of posting crooked numbers in droves.
That’s a given.
Despite a mediocre .259 batting average, Milwaukee still finds itself among the top five National League squads in just about every other important hitting category, including topping the Senior Circuit with 81 home runs.
The resurgent Corey Hart, the unsung Casey McGehee, and the wunderkind Ryan Braun have combined for more RBI than other trio in the NL.
However, what I’m here to highlight is in fact a sign of brightness on the pitching mound—seriously!
You see, the Brewers’ pitching staff has more or less been a patchwork group of journeyman with oversized contracts intertwined with young-but-below-average arms for the better part of two decades.
But since 2004, the first time Ben Sheets held his ERA below three and averaged more than one strikeout—and less than one hit per inning—the team at least could rest assured that, when healthy, it boasted a legitimate ace.
Hell, in 2008 they had two for a time in the short window of overlap when both Benny and C.C. were pitching well.
And having that ace in the hole is always the first reason for hope.
The first step in building a formidable pitching rotation is finding that one rock that you can count on to stop streaks of putridity and to set the tone when things are going well.
If pitching and defense are the foundation for championships, an ace is the layer below the cement.
When C.C. was yanked away by the strong pull of $60 million and the emotional rollercoaster of Benny’s injuries became too much for the franchise to bear, it appeared that bedrock had been removed.
The big question: Could Yovani Gallardo actually step up and be able to fill that role long-term?
My guess is, after last season, many would say the jury was still out.
And after the month of April this year, I would suggest confidence was still low.
Thankfully though, a thorough examination of the stats—as well as Yo’s recent stretch of Warren Spahn-like outings—have put those uncertainties to rest.
In 2009—Yo’s first as the De Facto ace—he finished the year with underwhelming numbers: a 13-12 record and a 3.73 ERA.
Not bad, to be sure, but not ace numbers.
Under the popular markers of a pitcher’s success lays a more indicative truth: Yo was just as dominating as Benny ever was.
Ben Sheet’s best year, 2004, included a ratio of 0.85 hits per inning, and a home run surrendered ever 9.48 innings.
He also averaged 1.11 strikeouts per inning.
Last year was not Yovani’s best, with a hits per inning rate of just 0.82, a home run every 8.81 innings, and a strikeout average of 1.10 per inning.
As with anything, you can nitpick this comparison and find some discrepancies.
For example, Yo walked 4.6 hitters per nine compared to just 1.2 for Sheets.
But my point here is that the results of last year, taken with the first 40 percent of this year, demonstrate that Yovani can indeed handle the burden of being the team’s ace.
Want more good news?
He’s only getting better.
At only 24, Yo’s best years are ahead of him.
In May, Gallardo’s ERA was a dynamic 2.31.
In June, it has been 2.25.
Stats which unquestionably scream ace.
The team’s pitching staff as a whole looks worse than Rex Ryan topless, at least Brewers’ fans can take solace in the fact that they have an ace they can rely on.
Well, that and Jeff Suppan wearing a different jersey.