What a difference a week can make!
After a rather anticlimactic 2-5 start to the season, the Brewers shocked everyone, myself included, by winning 5 of their 6 games this past week. Their 7-6 record puts them above .500 for the first time since 2014, and more importantly: one game out of first place in the NL Central. Last week, I cautioned my readers against overreacting to such a small sample size of baseball games; 162 games is a long time, and it’s impossible to make assumptions based off a week’s worth of games. But now we’re TWO weeks into the season, and we’re AHEAD of the CUBS!
So in honor of this past week’s #MilwaukeeDay, The Curd’s love for the 414, and honoring my traditional writing style of keeping expectations real and in check, here’s 4.14 reasons why the Brewers are going to win the world series this year.
1. Wily Peralta is BACK
Wily is one of just three pitchers in all of baseball with a 3-0 record. From a pure numbers standpoint, he’s been incredibly solid, posting a 2.65 ERA and striking out 13. Despite giving up 8 walks in his 3 starts, I’ve noticed Peralta getting ahead in the count early in at-bats. He’s gone into attack mode early, and has avoided the big inning that plagued him early on in 2016. Most skeptics will tell you he’s unlikely to keep winning at this pace, but they’re probably forgetting the most important point of all: it’s a contract year for Wily. He’s eligible for arbitration next year, and can position himself nicely for a big pay day if he keeps this up. Peralta is an emotional player. He’s one of those guys you love to have on a winning team, but can be responsible for a lot of negative energy when the going gets tough. If the Brewers can find a way to keep winning at this pace, Peralta is going to be the arm in the rotation that teams start to fear.
2. Their best players from 2016 haven’t gotten going yet
- Jonathan Villar: .163 BA, .241 OBP
- Ryan Braun: .244 BA, 6 RBIs
- Zach Davies: 0-2, 8.79 ERA
I’ll keep this short and to the point: If the Brewers continue to win, one or more these guys will almost certainly come around. 162 games is a long season, with a ton of ups and downs. The fact that the Brewers are playing winning baseball despite the early struggles of their two best offensive players and their best starting pitcher from last year is encouraging.
3. Manny Piña is winning the depth chart battle at catcher, and it’s paying dividends
Credit Craig Counsell for sticking to his guns throughout Spring Training and the first two weeks of the season. Counsell has reiterated often that the Brewers catchers would split time until a clear starter arose, and it looks like Manny Piña is that guy. Brewers pitchers have posted a 1.68 ERA with Piña catching this year. Their record in those games? A perfect 6-0. Piña has an absolute CANNON of an arm and has thrown out four of eight runners attempting steals this year, including today’s nabbing of the fastest man in baseball, Billy Hamilton, who had not been thrown out all year. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s on an absolute tear at the plate? Piña is batting .461 with four doubles and three runs. While the offense will certainly diminish (he’s not going to set MLB records this year), his arm isn’t going anywhere, which is going to be a huge asset for Brewers pitchers as they try to keep runners out of scoring position.
4.14. Eric Thames is a monster
Don’t be surprised if you start to see more struggling major leaguers make their way to South Korea over the next couple of years- it sure seemed to work for Eric Thames. He hit five home runs in four games against the Reds over the weekend, and leads the league in home runs, despite splitting playing time with Jesus Aguilar. Dare I say it, he looks like the ghost of Prince Fielder, and plays with the same childlike enthusiasm and love for the game of baseball that caused us all to fall in love with Prince during his time in Milwaukee.
In all seriousness, it’s an unexpected gift for the Brewers to still be in the hunt for a division title halfway through April (man, that’s sad). Despite the early success, I wouldn’t put your down payment on postseason tickets just yet. While I can’t guarantee the Brewers will continue to stay close to the top of the NL Central, what I can tell you is this: it’s going to be incredibly interesting (and likely quite controversial) to see how GM David Stearns plays his cards if the Brewers keep winning. Remember, the Brewers are rebuilding in 2017, despite what the Sunday Cycle says. Will Stearns cash in on the unexpectedly hot performances of his players and trade for the future? Or will he shock the world and change course? Only time will tell, but I’ll be here with you through it all, Milwaukee. That’s a promise.