If you haven’t been noticing the Sunday Cycle on your Facebook timeline the past month, that’s my bad (at least partially). After weeks of disappointing readership numbers and seemingly no explanation for why my post numbers were down, I learned a very important lesson in social media content distribution this past week: people can’t see your posts if you set them to be shared with “only me”.
But fear not, loyal readers! For as is always the case in sports journalism, the Sunday Cycles from 2-3 weeks ago are now completely irrelevant! The drama of the dog days of August has played itself out entirely, and as fans, we turn our attention forward to the final month of the regular season.
I’ve always found it fun to go back and read some of my articles from earlier in the season; I tend to take an overly confident tone when I’m making bold statements in my weekly columns. I’m sometimes right, but I’m often wrong. Since we’ve solved the mystery of the disappearing Sunday Cycle readers, I figured I would celebrate the start of September by taking a peak back at some of my hottest takes from the past five months and analyze just how (in)accurate they turned out to be.
From April 2, 2017: “Team MDP (Most Disappointing Player): Jimmy Nelson (4-11, 4.85 ERA), ends up on another team next year and starts to post career best numbers. Call it a hunch, but I just don’t get the sense Nelson wants to be in Milwaukee.”
Wrong. So wrong. Almost fitting that this came two lines after I predicted that the now 72-65 Brewers would only win 69 games all season. Jimmy Nelson has been nothing short of outstanding, posting an 11-6 record with a 3.59 ERA. But I didn’t just predict a down season for Nelson- I blindly theorized that he didn’t want to be in Milwaukee, hinting that it might just be an ‘attitude’ thing for Nelson. WRONG. How wrong? Look at this quote from Ryan Braun after Nelson’s dominating performance in the Brewer’s 1-0 win over the Nationals Friday night: “A lot of times, he’s here at 10:30, 11 [a.m.] for a 7 o’clock game. Most guys are here earlier than the fans realize, but this guy is here two hours earlier than everybody. A lot of times, nobody knows what he’s actually doing, but he’s convinced himself that everything he does leads to the success he’s having. He really does work as hard or harder than anybody that I’ve ever played with. It’s really cool to see him have the success that he’s had.”
Nelson looks like a man possessed and seems to be getting even better with every start. He’s my pick for the Brewer’s starting pitcher should they end up in the Wild Card game in October.
From April 16, 2017, on Wily Peralta: 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.
Wrong. Anyone else forget about Peralta completely? I certainly did, and I definitely forgot that Peralta actually started 3-0 for the Brewers this year before starting a skid that would cost him his spot, seemingly for good, on the Brewer’s 25-man roster. After years of waiting for Peralta to break out and reach his full potential, the Crew ran out of space for Wily on a team that had playoff ambitions.
From June 11, 2017, on the Brewer’s bullpen: “Honestly, if I had my way, the Brewers would take a page out of the Milwaukee Admirals playbook and do a complete line switch in their bullpen.”
Honestly, gotta give myself credit for this one- not a bad call. At the time, the Brewers bullpen was one of the worst in the big leagues. The likes of Neftali Feliz, Carlos Torress, Wily Peralta (see above), and Oliver Drake were blowing late leads for the Brewers on a weekly basis. So what did they do? They kept their All Star closer Corey Knebel, and switched up the rest of the line completely. The results? Josh Hader, Anthony Swarzak, and Jacob Barns have assumed the responsibilities of late inning relief and the Brewers now have one of the more solid late game setups in baseball.
Despite seeing Hader give up two runs in Friday night’s loss, he has been the most impressive of the new group of relievers, boasting a 1.93 ERA in 25 appearances. I cannot WAIT to see Hader in a starting role, hopefully as soon as next year. His stuff is electric, he pitches fearlessly, and his long hair, dirty glasses, and crazy pre-pitch rocking make for a pitcher that’s equal parts bizarre and brilliant.
In a manner of two months, the Brewers managed to build themselves a bullpen that they may be able to ride all the way to the postseason.
From August 6, 2017: “Too much pressure on a pitching staff wears on a team, and can lead to some pretty ugly losing streaks. This was always my concern with this team- that their over reliance on the long ball was going to hurt them when the dog days of August rolled around.”
While the point itself is still valid, this was spoken by a fan who was watching his team implode over the course of three weeks. While I still stand by the fact that too much pressure on a pitching staff can wear on a team, the Brewers pitching staff proved resilient enough to see through the offensive slump that cost their team a 5.5 game lead in the NL Central. When the bats woke up, the arms got even better, and with Chase Anderson back from his two month stint on the DL, this starting rotation is quietly becoming one of the most consistent rotations in baseball. It’s not an accident that the Brewers won series against the Dodgers and the Nationals, two playoff teams that are a combined 77 games above .500. In my opinion, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, and Zach Davies give the Brewers a chance to win in any playoff series.
From September 3, 2017 (that’s today): I might as well make it an official prediction: this team is going to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the only two teams hotter than them right now are the Cubs, who are 3.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central, and the Diamondbacks, who are currently 7 games ahead of the Brewers and in first in the NL Wild Card Standings. That said, the Brewers have now trimmed their deficit for the second Wild Card down to just a half a game, thanks to their recent winning ways and a little help from the struggling Rockies. I’m not counting the Brewers out of the Central, but I’m encouraged to see them climbing the standings in the Wild Card. It’s great to have options. Simply put- I see the Brewers playing playoff caliber baseball, and I’m confident in their ability to continue doing so for the next four weeks. Better bring those second TVs into the living room, because the Packers are officially splitting time with your Milwaukee Brewers!