The Milwaukee Brewers finished the month of April with a 17-13 record. That is good for third in the very tight NL Central division. They had an eight game winning streak towards the end of the month, but stumbled in their finish dropping four in a row to the Cubs and one victory over the Reds. After the first 30 games of the season, here is where they stand.
The new and improved Brewers offense has been utterly inconsistent. Prime suspect has been Jonathan Villar, who looks like a league all star one day and a complete bum the next. Orlando Arcia has struggled to hit above his own weight this season. Eric Sogard has been disappointing to say the least so far. Hernan Perez is also struggling to find his swing. There has been zero production from behind the plate. Domingo Santana who hit 30 bombs last year, still hasn’t hit one yet this year and is only hitting .237 (33% strikeout rate). Ryan Braun is either a strikeout or a clutch homerun.
The few bright spots have been both first baseman, Lorenzo Cain, and Christian Yelich. Thames was his normal self, belting homeruns at will and slashing .250/.351/.625. Losing him to injury for eight weeks really hurts Milwaukee. However, Jesus Aguilar has been unreal for the club (.956 OPS). Coming up with huge hits in all situations. He is great in a pinch hitting role and every time he makes a start it seems he has a multi-hit game. They need to give him as many at bats as possible. Lorenzo Cain (.290/.405/.458) has come as advertised. Milwaukee finally has a decent leadoff hitter who can get on base and flash some power every once in awhile. Yelich has done the same outside of the few games where he struggled upon returning from injury.
Milwaukee is only hitting .232 as a team (11th in NL) and have scored only 107 runs (13th NL). They are only a +6 run differential which is very uninspiring. They are fourth in the NL in homeruns with 32 however. You could even argue that 32 homers isn’t enough for a team that relies so heavily on the long ball. All in all, the bats really need to get going if Milwaukee wants to contend in this division. I expect that they will.
I must give credit to the team for cutting back on the strikeouts so fan this season. They were far and away the worst team in the league in that category in the past two years. They currently sit middle of the pack in strikeouts which is a huge improvement.
After a rough start, Milwaukee has turned it around and is a top 5 rotation in the league (3.62 ERA). Junior Guerra is pitching like a Cy Young candidate and Chase Anderson has picked up right where he left off last year. Chacin has also figured out how to pitch after three tough starts to begin the season. Zach Davies has done the same after a few rough starts to begin his campaign.
Brent Suter has been very underwhelming as he has struggled getting through the order the first time. He has been sentenced to bullpen duty as Wade Miley is ready to return. I am very curious to see how the Miley experiment goes.
If the staff can continue this pace until Nelson gets back, the Brewers are going to be in very good shape starting pitching wise.
The bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. In terms of ERA, they are posting an excellent 2.45. That is good for 2nd best in the NL, and 3rd best in all of baseball. They are holding opponents to a miniscule .204 batting average and are striking batters out at a rate of 10.81 K/9. This is extremely impressive due to the fact that their stud closer, Corey Knebel, has missed significant time.
Josh Hader has obviously been the big name coming out of the pen (1.00 ERA, .79 WHIP, .082 opponent average, 18 innings, 38 K’s, 5 BB’s). He is at a 19 K’s per 9 innings rate which is far and away the best in baseball. He has been fantastic in the role he is being used in as a stretch reliever. Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Albers, and Jacob Barnes are all sub 1.50 ERA in 13+ innings of work. Dan Jennings has been a nice waiver wire, left handed arm out of the pen. Taylor Williams has also looked great out of the pen as well in less work than the bigger names.
Oliver Drake has been the only real problem for the Brewers in terms of the bullpen. He has been able to put together some strikeouts, but has an opponent average of .286 and a WHIP of 1.74. He will need to turn things around quickly if he wants to stay on the team. Other guys such as, Adrian Houser and Brandon Woodruff are knocking on the door as fulltime MLBers.
The Brewers bullpen has been a major reason for the success the Brewers have been having. With the offense being as inconsistent as it has been, the bullpen has needed to be lights out and they have been just that.
The Brewers are second in the NL in errors with 23. There have been two or three games where the Brewers have made multiple errors and those ended up costing them the game. They have been much better of late, but the start of the month was dreadful.
Villar still can’t seem the routine plays and he has already racked up 4 errors in 182 innings so far this year. Everyone has made their share of mistakes though. As at least eight players on the team have committed multiple errors.
The backstops have been great defensively however. Neither Bandy or Pina have made errors this year. Bandy is catching runners stealing at a 66% rate, while Pina is throwing them out at a 30% rate. Pina has not even allowed a past ball so far this season.
The bats need to wake up to get the Brewers back to the top of the division. I’m sure many people will agree with me when I say that I expected the complete opposite of this. I thought the starting pitching would be the issue, not the offense. Hopefully the bats wake up this month and the pitching can sustain their pace.
If I had any critique for the rotation, it would be seeing a few guys develop some consistency. Chacin has been very up and down to begin the season. Davies could fall into this category as well. We all know Davies can be more effective than he has been so far this year. He has been a late starter throughout his young career. Overall, I’d like to see a little more swing and miss from the staff as well. They have only struck out 113 batters in 154 innings this season.
The team defense as a whole needs to continue to tighten up. They cannot get back to how they started the month, or they are going to start blowing games again.