If the playoffs started today, the Milwaukee Brewers would have the second seed in the National League and home-field advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs.
At 73-52, the Brewers own Major League Baseball’s fourth best record (behind the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies).
While the Brewers have maintained their distance from national media exposure, this team’s record reflects the damage it can do in the postseason.
The Brew Crew should be considered a serious contender to reach the World Series in 2011, if it makes the playoffs.
Since 2008, the Brewers have been in the top five in the National League for home runs and slugging percentage and ranked in the top three for OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) every year except 2008 when they ranked sixth.
The offense has been there for the Brewers and is again in 2011.
First baseman Prince Fielder (.304 batting average, 27 home runs, 89 RBI, .562 slugging percentage) and outfielder Ryan Braun (.329 batting average, 23 home runs, 78 RBI, .577 slugging percentage) comprise arguably baseball’s best third and fourth hitter combination.
Leadoff hitter and second baseman Rickie Weeks suffered an ankle injury on July 27 that forced him onto the 15-day disabled list with a prognosis of missing three to six weeks.
Before his injury Weeks was having arguably the best offensive season of any National League second basemen: 19 home runs, 43 RBI, .272 batting average and a .478 slugging percentage.
If he can come back and do close to what he did before his injury, the Brewers will be in good shape offensively with third baseman Casey McGehee coming on strong in his last 30 games (three home runs, 15 RBI, .286 batting average, .473 slugging percentage) after a slow start to the season and outfielder Cory Hart putting in a good 2011 season (.267 batting average, 18 home runs and 45 RBI) after missing the first 22 games of the season with an abdominal injury.
The offense remains strong. It is the improved pitching that could launch the Brewers deep into October.
Milwaukee owns the second best ERA in the National League (3.85), the fifth most quality starts posted by the starters (84), and the fourth best batting average against (.256).
It also has a starting staff that can compete with baseball’s best.
General manager Doug Melvin spent the offseason making sure his team had the staff it needed to be successful in postseason play and to complement the staff ace Yovani Gallardo (3.55 ERA, 142 strikeouts and 13-8 record in 162.1 innings in 2011).
Zack Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young winner, didn’t make his first start until May 4th but is 11th in all of baseball with 151 strikeouts. He’s only allowed 29 walks in 121.2 innings pitched. He also owns a 3.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched), and 5.21 strikeout to walk ratio.
He has made Melvin look very intelligent for acquiring him, even though many questioned whether it was worth giving up hot-shot prospect shortstop Alcides Escobar and others this offseason.
Milwaukee’s third pitcher in its postseason rotation will be Shaun Marcum, another one of Melvin’s offseason acquisitions.
This move drew even more criticism than the acquisition of Greinke. To get Marcum, who owns a record of 10-3, 3.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 124 strikeouts in 149.1 innings pitched in 2011), Milwaukee parted with second base prospect Brett Lawrie.
Marcum is a great No. 3 pitcher to have on a postseason roster and rounds out a staff that can bring a team to the World Series. It’s not as notorious as the Phillies’ rotation, but whose is?
The bullpen, which appeared to be a major weakness at the beginning of the season, still needs some work. It posts the 10th best batting average against (.244) out of 16 NL teams, ninth best ERA (3.61) and seventh best OPS (.669).
The bright spot for the bullpen is that it doesn’t allow many walks (112, second best in NL) which means when runners get on base, it’s typically because they earned it.
But the back end of the pen is stable with John Axford handling the role of closer, and Fransisco Rodriguez playing the role of setup man very well.
The Brewers shouldn’t be considered a favorite to win the World Series (Boston, New York and Philadelphia are the top three), but to leave the Brewers out of the discussion to reach the World Series would be a mistake.