Okay, Okay, Enough About the Brewers Already
Chris Capuano’s latest gem gives the Brew Crew four straight wins.
Alright, I admit it. I seem really fixated on what’s going on in Milwaukee lately. Watching them right now is akin to going to your high school reunion and finding out that the skinny, plain girl from your home room class is now a stunning goddess with a rack that you can’t seem to avert your gaze from. You find yourself wondering: are those real?
You could ask yourself the same question about the Brewers. Milwaukee is just such a great story, and the more I see, the more I believe that this is not a fast start — this is real (unlike the pair on your former high school ugly duckling).
With four straight wins and eight out of nine, the team has improved to 22-10 for the best mark in baseball (with another two games to play against the Nats). The Cubs, second in the NL Central, are hitting the snot out of the ball finally, averaging six runs per game in the past nine, eight of which have been wins. Yet, they haven’t gained a stitch on the Brew Crew and still sit 5.5 games back. The beleaguered Cardinals — that would be the beleaguered World Champion Cardinals — are dead last in the Central, nine games back.
But it’s hard to say that Milwaukee snuck up on anybody. The Brewers just had to endure a 22-game run against divisional opponents and they won 16 of those games. That’s over three weeks worth of the season that teams within its own division got an eyeful of the Brewers and have been able to draw their own conclusions.
It’s a pretty simple game when you’re getting great starting pitching, fine bullpen work and solid hitting, isn’t it?
It all starts with a staff that’s been nothing short of dominant, even if its leading winner from 2006 has yet to join the fun:
- Chris Capuano is 5-0, 2.31 with just 31 hits allowed in 39 IP. He’s struck out 31.
- Jeff Suppan, who we discussed recently, continues to roll with a 5-2 record and 2.63 ERA. Yes, he’s given up 51 hits in 48 innings, but with just nine walks issued, I still like that 1.25 WHIP he’s boasting.
- Claudio Vargas has been a very nice surprise since arriving from Arizona, going 3-0, 2.89 with nice hits rates (29 hits in 28 IP) and a three-to-one K/BB ratio. He’s given up more than two earned runs in just one of his starts.
- Ben Sheets, as we noted yesterday, has been solid, but is capable of better.
- Dave Bush, who led the Brewers with a dozen wins last season, has pitched much better than his 6.00+ ERA indicates, but big innings have been his undoing. He gets the Nats tonight, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him right the ship. Bush’s K rates and command have both been sharper this year, so if he can reduce his hit rates, the results will follow.
- Should any of their starters falter or get hurt, the team has middle reliever Carlos Villanueva (who many thought deserved a rotation spot out of spring training) pitching superbly. And, of course, prospect Yovanni Gallardo (No. 8 on our top prospect list), is ready to contribute whenever the opportuntity should arise.
The attack has been equally impressive:
- Prince Fielder, as we mentioned, has been on fire, and he’s been named the NL Player of the Week for his recent exploits.
- Rickie Weeks has made major improvements on D, so any talk of a position shift is long gone.
- Geoff Jenkins, who was expected to be ushered out of town after last year’s debacle, has kept up his late-season run and is hitting the cover off the ball. He even got to play against a lefty yesterday, rare footage considering his struggles against southpaws the past couple of years.
- J.J. Hardy is on the best run of his career, with hits in 18 straight games.
- Johnny Estrada, scuffling a bit lately (.200 in the past week; .176 in May) has still managed to be productive enough to drive in four runs in the past five games. With 15 runs in 24 games, he’s on pace to score a career-best 96 while also shattering personal highs in hits (186) and doubles (51). Estrada is batting .296, a figure that may pick up as he shakes off his troubles against lefties (southpaws are giving him a tougher time than normal right now). Note, however, that the switch-hitter has been a significantly better first-half player in recent years, obviously a common trait for catchers.
- Ryan Braun is totally ready to help on offense. Whether his future is at third base or in the outfield, this kid’s stick is ready to do some bashing right now. He could provide a huge boost to the club, and needs to be picked up as soon as he arrived in the Show.
After Milwaukee disposes of the Nationals, it heads to Shea for three-game weekend set that is shaping up as very interesting indeed. I’m extremely curious to see how this team does against a true NL powerhouse.