As the baseball season continues to drag on for Brewers fans, I’ve found myself in an unusual position during my sophomore year of writing the Sunday Cycle. Very few people seem to be interested in the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers, and for good reason. They have the second worst record in the major leagues at 24-40, they are so far out of the Divisional race that it’s not even worth scoreboard watching, and at a whopping -64 run differential, some of these losses are difficult to watch. It’s been a bummer, as proven by my slumping readership numbers. I can only imagine what some of the daily Brewer’s bloggers must be going through this season. It’s tough to find interesting things to write about when you’re covering a team that is simply out of it’s league.
The trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Brewers are going to be big sellers in July. However, until that process begins, all we’re left with is speculation and rumors. While I’d love to be your local Brewers insider with sources whispering in my ear, I’m not. So I’ll take speculation off the table for this week’s Cycle as well.
In the midst of some serious soul searching and aggressive Googling, I almost let a very important detail slip between the cracks in my quest for something to write about: the Brewers are actually playing some of their best baseball in over a calendar year. Yesterday and today, the Brewers took the field with a chance to win their third straight series, a feat they have not accomplished since May 23rd through June 1st of 2014. Although today’s 4-0 loss that featured just one Brewers hit brought them back down to earth, the past 10 days of baseball has been mildly entertaining to watch. The Crew has played against some impressive opponents, taking two of three from the Twins and the Pirates on the road, and splitting a home series against the Nationals.
Do I think this is the start of a magical run to the Wild Card? Absolutely not. However, there have been some performances that are worth getting excited about. Taylor Jungman, the Brewers 1st round pick from 2011, made his first major league start against the Pirates and allowed just three hits in seven innings en route to a win, only the third Brewers pitcher in franchise history to get a win in his first start. Jungman took the mound again today and wasn’t quite as sharp, giving up two runs through five innings, but his fastball touched 96 and he got out of some tricky situations. Jungman is a unanimous top ten prospect in the Brewers system; if this has been a preview of what’s to come, then the 25 year-old could become a valuable presence in the starting rotation.
Another Brewers rookie, Tyler Cravy, had an equally impressive performance just a week ago allowing one run in seven innings against the major league-leading Cardinals. Cravy was sent back down to AAA to continue developing, but has since made two starts after his Major League debut, going 2-0 with a .071 ERA and 9 strikeouts. That makes me smile; it’s a nice reminder that some serious talent is sitting in the Brewer’s minor league system.
Don’t forget about that Brewers bullpen, either. Surprisingly, the bullpen is the hottest in baseball right now, and had allowed just three runs in the last 50.1 innings for a .54 ERA entering play today – good for the best ERA in the majors over that stretch. Michael Blazek has been the biggest surprise of the year for the Brewers, ranking second best in ERA (1.08) among all NL relievers with 30+ innings thrown. He could become quite valuable at the trade deadline should the Brewers elect to sell him while he’s red hot. For a player that wasn’t seen as a contender for a roster spot last February, I’m confident that nobody predicted that Blazek would be a diamond in the rough.
Don’t get me wrong, the standings don’t lie; this is still a very bad baseball team. The All Star game is about a month away and with the exception of Blazek the Brewers don’t really deserve their mandatory representation. In the midst of what is still on pace to be the worst season of the Doug Melvin era, it’s important to take a step back and find some silver linings. It was also nice to see winning baseball over the past week. Mark my words, if the Brewers do choose to sell off before the July 31st trade deadline, there will be very few wins to cheer about during August and September, and even fewer people reading the Sunday Cycle. So enjoy them, and me, while you can. Beer, please!