Good morning, baseball fans! You awake this morning to find your favorite team (the Milwaukee Brewers, in case you weren’t aware of who your favorite team was) at three games above .500 for the first time since September of 2014. That’s good enough to place them in second place in the NL Central, trailing the first place Cardinals by just one game. And ahead of the Chicago Cubs by 1½ games! The Brew Crew’s overall 20-17 record looks very nice. This is with almost a quarter of the season gone by, which is neither here nor there...but this level of success is surprising and fun.
To the point: The Brewers went 5-1 over the week, scoring 43 runs (7.5 avg.) and allowing 25 (4.2 avg.). They won at the plate. The one really good game they pitched, they lost. The team is hitting with confidence. They are producing with runners in scoring position. They are still hitting home runs. They win by scoring early and often. It was a fun week of baseball.
TOP HITTING STORY: Travis Shaw has been a solid producer all season in the clean-up spot. This past week was better than average, but not off the page fantastic. Runs batted in can be a reflection of how many guys get on base ahead of you (but Jonathan Villar’s slow start hurts him there, while Eric Thames fast start helps - even if he drives himself in a lot), but the consistency has produced 30 RBI this year for Shaw. For the week, Travis slashed .360/.385/.640 with and OPS of 1.025. He had a double and two homers, driving in seven. I read somewhere that someone predicted an All-Star appearance for Shaw this year, and that possibility is most definitely in the (lower case) cards.
Honorable Mention: First base, baby. It feels like a slow week for Eric Thames, as he has been quiet in the first two games of the Mets series, but he slashed .350/.458/.750 for an OPS of 1.208. His counterpart Jesus Aguilar only got nine plate appearances, but he is returning to the form that had everyone excited in spring training: a slash of .444/.444/1.222, OPS of 1.667 - all four of Jesus’ hits were for extra bases, with two doubles, a triple, and a homer. With Hernan Perez hitting well in left (where Thames could play), and Eric Sogard and Nick Franklin combining to NOT MAKE ANY OUTS THIS WEEK (you can look it up - their combined slash for the week in seven plate appearances was 1.000/1.000/2.000, OPS of 3.000), manager Craig Counsell faces tough but fun decisions every day when he makes out the line-up.
TOP PITCHING STORY: Is it possible that Jimmy Nelson is going to be at least a solid starter this year? He had one start this week, and it was the only game the Brewers lost, but he worked 6 2⁄3 innings, allowing 4 hits and an unearned run while walking 4 (OK, that’s high) but striking out 8. You combine that with his 3 no-hit innings in his previous start in Pittsburgh, when the rains came and washed out his chances of continuing the start, and you have a tantalizing hint of what just might be. I can dream, can’t I?
Honorable Mention: Neftali Feliz has lost the closer position due to a tendency to allow walks, dingers, and runs. He has been replaced by Corey Knebel, who has been lights out this season, and who worked 2 2⁄3 innings of shutout ball in 3 appearances - striking out an amazing 8 batters. To do better at whiffing hitters you’d have to have your catcher drop some third strikes to let guys get on base. So the lone save for the week went to...Jared Hughes. Hughes worked 2 2⁄3 innings in his 3 scoreless appearances, allowing just a hit and no walks. He only fanned two, though...slacker!
IMHO: Notice who isn’t in the narrative this week? Why, yes, it’s Ryan Braun! Even though he returned to the line-up long enough to garner six at bats and a .929 OPS, he couldn’t throw at all from leftfield, and a calf injury shelved him in his second game back, going on the DL (and setting the stage for Eric Sogard’s memorable Brewer debut - his homer in his first official at bat followed two walks).
My question is, does the Brewers’ performance without their most established star make it easier for GM David Stearns to trade him? I know, I know...small sample size, and that, but this Brewer team seems to be able to perform without Braun, so perhaps the Slingin’ Man might be more amenable to listening to offers from other teams on Ryan’s Most Acceptable List in need of an outfielder (cough, cough, Dodgers). If such offers manifest themselves.
Just something that occurred to me.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: The call-up of Eric Sogard when Ryan Braun went to the DL was a surprising choice, with several outfielders having good early seasons available to one degree or another. (Of course, it led to Sogard’s feel-good moment as he hit his first major league homer since 2015, with 2016 lost to injury. aaronetc caught the Brewers’ thinking in his post:
I think this tells us LBR is in left field until Braun gets back, and Sogard is his replacement as a utility infielder
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The Brewers have a final home game today against the Mets, then go on the road for the rest of the week. They go to San Diego for four and then to Chicago for a weekend series with the fourth place Cubs. No off days this week, and some late night ball for insomniacs on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I wonder if Yar will make it to a game or two.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference