Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Round Table.
As of this writing, your Milwaukee Brewers are currently perched atop the NL Central standings and fresh off a sweep of the Chicago Baby Bears. (Man, did that L flag get a workout!) That got me thinking: what accounts for the Brewers' good fortunes, compared to last year? Getting two stud pitchers has helped, of course, but even then, our "ace" had an ERA over 5 as late as mid-July. It's hard to say the offense or defense had improved, not when the big offseason addition has been Yuni Betancourt. We asked some BCB experts for their explanation of the Brewers' turnaround from 2010. Nicole and TheJay, what do you think?
This question made me think of the 2007 team that started out 24-10. That year, of course, the Brewers were up 8 games as late as mid-June before fading. But 96 games in, they were 54-42. After that season, things were looking up as Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo were going to have their first full seasons, Mike Cameron was added to center field, and Johnny Estrada was gone. Of course, the 2008 team stumbled out of the gate, lost Gallardo, and fell to 20-24 and 7 games back at one point. The CC Sabathia trade is what really sparked that team's playoff run but it's worth noting through 96 games (6 with Sabathia), that team was 53-43. Their hot streak just came a bit later than in 2007.
Winning 24 of 34 games has actually been a yearly feat for the Brewers. Acknowledging 34 is an arbitrary number of games to look at, it's still kind of odd that in 2007, 2008, and 2009, their top 34-game record was 24-10. Then last year, the team never really had a hot streak. That team's best 34-game stretch was 20-14. So maybe the question shouldn't be what changed for this year, but rather what went wrong last year.
But that's not the question. I think the turnaround is attributable to a couple things. First, this team is actually playing for something. When you're six games back by May and nine by June, it's easy to feel and consequently play like the season is over. Second, the pitching staff. Last year, the pitching was bad, just like the year before. This year, however, the pitching staff is improved, in reputation and performance. To make one obvious point: having strikeout pitchers means less reliance on a bad defense to end innings/rallies (of course, strikeouts are not a cure-all). Finally, and take this with a grain of salt, since I don't know what the clubhouse is really like, but this team just seems more positive than last year. A new coaching staff, a better pitching staff, and ego-boosting preseason picks for the playoffs sparked optimism, but the hot streak that got this team into first place is what's kept it going.
Nicole Haase writes:
I think the biggest difference from last year to this year is the pitching. It says everything you need to know about this starting rotation that Randy Wolf went from a #2 starter last year to a #4 starter this year. I'm much more comfortable with him in that role.
Sure, Greinke hasn't been the pitcher we've all hoped to be, Kam Loe has stumbled some out of the bullpen (though not as badly as perception has it) but overall, improved pitching is the reason the team has improved. Starters are going deeper into games and with the addition of K-Rod, the team just needs to get to the 8th inning and then opponents are facing a pretty shut-down pair.
I do also think there's something to be said about an improved attitude with the team. This started when Ken Macha was removed from the manager's role. Maybe it's just perception, but there doesn't seem to be "quit" in this team. I believe Tuesday night's game was their 26th come-from-behind win of the season. The guys are aware that the talent of this team is good enough to win and that the group will not be together next season. They're as eager to win and go to the postseason as the fans are and I think that attitude comes across on the field. That feeling of team togetherness just wasn't there under Macha.
So what do you think? How do you explain the Brewers' turnaround from 2010?