Best team in baseball shifts their focus to May

Let me just say that again Brewers fans. THE best team in baseball begins play as the calendar turns to May.

Currently a 21-9 and a .700 winning percentage (as of Friday May 2nd) the Brewers have a 6 game lead over 2nd place St. Louis who is inconsistent offensively. Now I want every Brewers fan to enjoy this, however please note that they can’t keep up this pace forever.

There will be a rough patch and a bump along the way this season.

Let’s review April for this team. Here were my 5 trends to watch for in April and my letter grades with how successful the Brewers were:

1) Schedule. A+  

I admit I would have been happy with a .500 record after April 20th playing the likes of Atlanta, @ Boston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and @ Pittsburgh. Through that date they ended up with a 14-5 record. And the brawl (that in my opinion Pittsburgh started perhaps because they are 1-6 currently vs Milwaukee) totally backfired. They are currently 9.5 games back fighting with the Chicago Cubs for 4th place.

The Brewers also had a 9 game winning streak during that tough schedule. It is why this team is for real. You don’t do well against last year’s playoff teams and call it a fluke. They earned it. And how about 12-3 on the road!? Nobody else in the NL Central has even a .500 record on the road!! I am going to start calling this team “The Road Warriors” They sure have the swagger that this former wrestling tag team had!

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2) Pitching A

Minus Matt Garza, all four starters in the rotation are pitching well. The Brewers starters throw quality starts like they are having their own competition.

Here is the ERA of the starters:

Gallardo 1.91

Lohse 2.70

Garza 5.00

Estrada 3.13

Peralta 2.04

And once it gets to the bullpen you might as well give up. The Brewers bullpen has been lights out. K-Rod is pitching like he is having a flashback to his Angel days and Will Smith was worth every bit for trading Nori Aoki to Kansas City. Here is a fun fact:

When K-Rod got his 13th save on Tuesday April 29, he had more saves than 13 teams have TOTAL WINS!??! Crazy.

Another great fact: Martin Maldonado is the first position player ever to hit the cover off the ball and record a scoreless inning in the same month!

3) Ryan Braun B

When in the lineup, Ryan Braun is putting up great numbers. He is playing like he has a chip on his shoulder. He already has a hand in a few of the Brewers wins. His injuries are concerning which I will get to later.

4) Segura and Gomez B- for Segura and A- for Gomez

Jean Segura is struggling at the plate which the Brewers decided to move him down to #8 in order to get him going. As of Friday May 2, there is too little of a sample size to see if this has helped due to him getting hurt in that freak dugout accident a week ago.

Carlos Gomez only gets a minus because he needs to be smart not to get baited into another fight this season. Stay focused on playing your game and if people don’t like it, they can do like you said, “strike you out.”

He is slowing becoming dare I say an potential MVP player. His offensive numbers are good and if you thought he lost a step on defense, think again. Can’t believe he robbed Joey Votto yet again. Votto’s reaction was priceless. He is a player that gets it unlike Gerrit Cole.

 

And for those that hate Gomez, I hope it is a sign of respect. He is a great player and there are moments like below where I feel like as he gets a little older the antics are slowly subsiding. Perhaps the national media likes to portray him as a man with a short temper, however seeing this hopefully gives you the full portrayal of Gomez. He is a player that plays with passion, plays all out, and leaves everything on the field. He should be celebrated not trashed.

 

 

5) Lineup B

The Brewers lineup is playing good. There are still guys who are not hitting yet to their potential, which the outstanding pitching is masking. Also it is a little concerning that the team has not scored enough runs to have a “laugher” so that the bullpen can rest. I would be worried if they still have trouble scoring as the calendar turns to June.

Here is the current usual lineup with comments:

Gomez. Thought he would not work in the lead-off position, but he has done fine. Still would rather have him in the middle of the lineup.

Scooter Gennett. Like everyone suspected, he is outplaying Ricky Weeks to the point where he is playing everyday. The man is showing he can hit and also can play quality defense. His first name is a cool baseball name too 🙂

Ryan Braun. When in the lineup, playing well, but they need to figure out if he should just bite the bullet and go on the DL. Remember last year I noted, that the Brewers were learning how to play without Braun and did well. This year surprises everyone except hardcore Brewers fans who already saw this. That suspension while bad from a team and PR standpoint did have a plus. It showed that the team can win without their best player.

Aramis Ramirez. After a hot start, he is in a 0-28 slump similar to his career cold starts. As much as I don’t like him as a baseball player, you have to give him credit for playing with a sore elbow cause he knows his team needs him. Ramirez was hit twice by St. Louis pitching on Monday April 28th.

Jonathan Lucroy. Offensively and defensively Lucroy is the most underrated catcher in baseball. Nice to see other team broadcasters are stating this as well. On Thursday the Reds broadcasters of Thom Brenneman and Chris Welch mentioned that. Lucroy is being Lucroy.

Khris Davis. Aside from being “Mr. Klutch” in extra innings, he is struggling in certain at-bats. At times he seems lost at the plate and overpowered by pitchers. Remember though. This is a man that has yet to play a full season in the majors.

Mark Reynolds/Lyle Overbay. While they are not shocking the world, they are proving to be some good veteran quality leadership either in the lineup or on the bench. That is all the Brewers ask for them to do which is much better than the first base disaster last year.

Jean Segura. He moved down from #2 to #8. While struggling at #2, Segura was moved to try to get him some confidence back. It remains to be seen if it works and if it works, will he move back to #2 and Scooter goes back to #8? My guess is Segura is 2 and Scooter becomes #1 moving Gomez down (6th?) to protect the middle of the lineup.

 

Here are some trends you need to keep an eye on for May:

1) Injuries/Health.

The Brewers are battling some injuries which has led to a short bench. While it did not hurt and they beat St. Louis April 28-29 with 3-4 of their stars out, I would not bet that happens all the time. A decision needs to come soon on Ryan Braun. I would say DL him so he can rest his rib cage injury. Then you can have a even bench.

Update: Braun has officially gone on the DL today May 3rd, retroactive to Sunday April 27th.

2) Matt Garza

Currently Matt Garza is 1-3 with a 5.00 ERA. He admittedly was quoted that he is not holding his weight and I admire him for saying that. The man is historically a gamer and career 3 ERA pitcher so he will figure things out. What is great about this rotation is that it is good enough to afford one pitcher to struggle at a time. How Garza pitches on May 5th will be important to see if he can turn things around.

3) Losing streaks.

Currently, the Brewers have yet to lose 3 in a row. This starting rotation is good and has proven to be very good. Since you came out of the gate with a great record, you have to go with the mindset of: avoiding sweeps and limiting the losing streaks. If the Brewers can do that, they will be able to maintain their lead.

4)  Short term memory loss

The Brewers need to have short term memory loss, forgetting that 6 win May that buried any chances of a playoff hope in 2013. This is a new year and a different team. While I don’t think history will repeat itself, the chance at a 3-4 game or more losing streak will get the media and fans talking about that again. Hopefully it will never come to that.

5) WCWW     Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays.

Brewers Bullpen

 

I admit I love the Brewers bullpen. They really look like they truly like each other and have unbelievable chemistry. Chemistry as I get older is one of the most underrated non-stats in sports that is important for any team to succeed.

I do worry that the Brewers could be holding onto Wang too long because he is a Rule 5 draft pick who has pitched nothing above rookie ball and is not ready for pressure situations yet. Rule 5 player means he either has to stay with the Major League team the entire year or head back to Pittsburgh, his former team.

Right now it is ok to hold onto him cause he has unbelievable stuff as a left handed pitcher, but if it comes to overworking your bullpen just for the sake of keeping Wang, your priorities have changed from March to now and you might need to let him go in order to have a better reliever in place. Until that point, the Brewers are showing guts, playing with a chip on their shoulder, adding some character which good teams do.

Here is the first two installments of Wei-Chung Wang Wednesday.

 

 

Important Series

May 1-4 @ Reds

May 9-11 vs Yankees

May 13-15 vs Pirates (First time teams play since the Easter Brawl).

May 19-22 @ Braves

May 26-28 vs Orioles

Keep ’em coming guys. Brewers fans across the nation are loving this!!

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