The Milwaukee Brewers broke their string of three 3-3 weeks in a row with a 5-2 mark in week 15, and when I look at the stats for the week it’s hard to figure out how they did it. Runs were 26-26, the Crew didn’t hit well at all, they pitched generally well but had some pretty bad performances (from relievers Jacob Barnes and Mike Zagurski), but still managed to not just win 71% of their games, they maintained their 1.5 game lead over the resurgent Chicago Cubs, who aren’t going away any time soon.
And the Brewers are not particularly healthy right now. Christian Yelich is back but still looking a little uncomfortable at the plate; Lorenzo Cain was out all week; Ryan Braun’s back is still bothering him; Brent Suter joined a full starting staff’s worth on the Disabled List; and Jesus Aguilar looked human at the plate for the first time in a while. But Nate Orf finally got to the majors (and hit a homer for his only major league hit - so far), and the Minnesota Twins continued to not play good baseball as the Brewers swept them. The first two games of the Atlanta Braves series were very well played by the Crew, however, and if you can win when you’re not playing particularly well, life is good. And oh yeah...Keon Broxton can patrol centerfield just fine, thank you very much.
TOP HITTING STORY: Brad Miller has been a welcome addition to the Brewers’ middle infield...at least when at the plate. This past week he paced the regulars with a .350/.381/.550 line, for an OPS of .931 (I told you they weren’t very impressive at the plate...the team line was .211/.277/.367, OPS .644). Brad had a double and a homer (tied for the team lead in homers on the week, believe it or not) with four scored and three driven in. Yeah, the defense has been as poor as advertised (.886 fielding percentage over-all, with four errors), but Brad has contributed some key hits (his homer was the game-winning hit against the Twins on Wednesday), and will continue to get regular at bats in the line-up.
Honorable Mention: Keon Broxton’s bat has quickly returned to earth (or lower) with a .059/.200/.118 slash, .318 OPS, and 9 strikeouts in 19 plate appearances. So usually that would be (dis)honorable...but I wanted to put this catch in here again, so...
TOP PITCHING STORY: Dan Jennings gets lots of credit for the Brewers 5-2 mark on the week. He relieved in three wins, going five scoreless innings with just one hit and one walk allowed, notching a two inning save and then the next game pitching out of a second and third, nobody out situation against the Braves and Milwaukee up 5-4 in the top of the seventh. The save came against the Braves, too. After a rough stretch for Jennings, it was very nice to see and I’m sure very gratifying for Dan. Nicely done.
Honorable Mention: Chase Anderson continued his hot pitching as the weather has heated up. For the week he had just one start (6.1 innings, three hits, one run, a walk, and five strikeouts), but over the past month he has gone 29.2 innings and allowed only 13 hits with 10 walks and 30 strikeouts. A WHIP of 0.78 will get the job done most of the time. He is still giving up homers at too high a rate (four over the month), but is starting to look like the Chase Anderson from last season.
IMHO: Milwaukee’s roster construction (both on the big league club and in the minors - the whole 40 man roster) has enabled them to survive some serious injury losses. Significant time has been lost by Jimmy Nelson (all season), Wade Miley (although we don’t know if that has actually hurt the team), and Zach Davies on the mound. Eric Thames, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and Ryan Braun, have missed significant time among the position players.
Plus, there have been significant under-performances among the position players. Orlando Arcia and Domingo Santana have had surprisingly poor seasons at the plate and are currently working out their issues at AAA Colorado Springs, and Eric Sogard and Jett Bandy have been designated for assignment.
The team has added players (Miller, Tyler Saladino) on the field, and the pitching depth in the starting rotation has seen Milwaukee get starts from nine players. Keon Broxton has made obvious contributions in his brief time up. The bullpen has rotated out underperforming players, either DFA’d or demoted, and has seen 16 pitchers appear out of said pen (18 if you include Hernan Perez and Erik Kratz).
This isn’t luck. This is realizing that every player is important to the success of the team.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Bet you thought I’d forgotten about Nate Orf. Au contraire! ddloml points out the obvious:
Brewers were 5-0 with Nate Orf on the roster. Now they are 0-1 since sending him down.
After finishing off the four game set against the Braves today at Miller Park, the Brewers travel to Miami for three, and then to Pittsburgh for five (make-up game double header on Saturday) winding up the “first half” at the All Star break. Sunday Sundries will be on a Monday next week to include that final Sunday game prior to the break.
Winning the division is important, you know. Avoiding one game play-offs can be a healthy approach. I think the Brewers should get to 100 wins and see if the Cubs can match it.