The Milwaukee Brewers are off to their best start in franchise history as they have an impressive record of 36-21. They are 4 games ahead of the second place Cubs, which is the largest division lead in the National League. After a fairly strong first month of the season, the club followed it up with a 19-8 record in May. Milwaukee has been catching some attention from around the league, as they have been ranked in the 4-5 range in the power rankings (make of that what you will). They are currently the best team in the NL and are the only team in the NL with a winning percentage above .600. With that being said, let’s break down the factors that are leading to the Brewers success.
It has been a collective effort in emerging offensively. Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich have been worth every penny as they have added a fantastic 1-2 punch at the top of the order. Jesus Aguilar has continued to be fantastic when he is called upon (8 HR/22 RBI in May). He is making it very hard for Ryan Braun to get time at first base. Travis Shaw continues to be an elite run producer and power threat for the ball club. After a brutal 5-50 stretch, Shaw has been red hot. Domingo Santana has begun to found his swing, and it is only a matter of time before he breaks out and starts hitting tons of homeruns again. Newcomer Tyler Saladino has been a great surprise in the middle infield for the Brewers. Depsite inconsistency, Jonathan Villar has looked more like he did in 2016 than he did in 2017.
The Brewers could use some help behind the plate however. Many Pina has struggled and Jett Bandy was DFA’d as he has failed to produce offensively. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers went out and made a deal with Oakland to maybe bring Lucroy back. He is on a reasonable, 1 year deal and Oakland probably isn’t going to be looking to contend this season. Orlando Arcia is hitting below .200 and the Brewers need him to get back to where he was last season. He has made up for his low average somewhat with all of the clutch hits he has had.
Milwaukee went from 13th in the NL in runs all the way up to 4th over the course of May. Milwaukee finally began to pick up the pitching and put some runs on the board. The crew is now 2nd in the NL in homeruns after a slow start to the season. The team batting average also improved 15 points. They improved in just about every single offensive category you can think of and that is a huge reason that the Brewers have been so hot.
Much to my surprise, the Brewers pitching staff has maintained its torrent pace. The Brewers bullpen is the best in the NL in terms of ERA. The staff as a whole is fifth in that category. Hader has been so good, he has been in some very early Cy Young award talks. Jeremy Jeffress has been lights out as he has an ERA well below 1.00. Matt Albers has continued to be solid in a set-up role. Finally, the Brewers can hit you with Corey Knebel in the ninth inning. He has looked great since his return from injury.
The starting pitching could be better as it is just 10th in the NL with an ERA of 4.21. Their starters also don’t generate a whole lot of swing and miss as they are 13th in the NL in strikeouts. Jholyus Chacin had a great month of May and has really helped to stabilize the Brewers starting rotation. Junior Guerra is looking like he did in 2016. Chase Anderson hasn’t quite been the guy he was last season and neither has Zach Davies. Hopefully Jimmy Nelson will be back soon as the rotation needs help.
May Goals Met?
I set out a few goals that the Brewers should strive for at the end of April going into May. The Brewers offense was not performing to the level even near to where it should’ve been and they could have had a few more wins in the first month of the year if they were swinging the bats well. In May, we saw the bats come around and it clearly paid off.
The team defense was terrible in the first month of the season. There were a handful of games where Milwaukee was making errors on routine plays that ended up costing the team the game. The crew tightened down on the defensive side of the ball this May and we didn’t see any games lost because of poor defense.
A big thing I look at when evaluating a team is run differential. All of the great teams have a high run differential and Milwaukee’s was a very mediocre +5 despite an 18-12 record in April. It really shows how much the Brewers were relying on their pitching last month. In May, that shot all of the way up to +34 which is right around where they were last year. It could still be better, but it is a significant improvement.
Milwaukee had a great month, but there is obviously always room for improvement.
- The starting pitching can get better immidiately if Chase Anderson and Zach Davies go back to the way they were pitching last season. I’d like to see these two bring their ERA down below 4 this month
- The run differential needs to continue to improve. Despite being a +34, you have to remember the 17-6 beatdown of the Mets that boosted it 13 points in one game. Shoot for a +50 in this category by the end of June!
- We need more from Manny Pina, Ryan Braun, and Orlando Arcia if they are going to keep getting as many at-bats as they are. They should shoot to improve their averages by 20 points this month.
Overall, Milwaukee has been such a fun team to watch this season. It’s safe to say this team has a legitimate shot at winning the division or swiping a wild card spot. The dog days of summer are just around the corner and I am fascinated to see how this season shakes out from here!