Playing For Pride: The Brewers in August

 

It’s with a heavy heart that many Brewers fans look back on 2011 in the month of August. Last year, the Milwaukee Brewers began their final stretch to the NL Central title by playing one of the best months of baseball the city has ever seen – the Crew went 21-7 in the final month of summer on the way to their first playoff appearance since 2008.

Surely, there’s no way we can draw any kind of comparison from that amazing to this year’s woeful campagin. Right?

Well, yes and no. Though it’s certainly true that August 2012 has no playoff implications for Milwaukee, and the team’s record is far from the stellar mark set by last year’s Brewers team – it doesn’t mean that the team isn’t playing for something.

Oddly enough, the Brewers are finding some rhythm in August (Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE)

With last night’s win over the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee improved to 13-11 in the month of August. This means for the second straight year, August has been the most successful month of the team’s season. The team also posted its lowest numbers of runs against with 101 this month – in 2012 Brewers opponents only scored 87, which made it the lowest of every month except September.

This month has seen the Brewers sweep Houston, Cincinnati and Chicago, with a series win in Pittsburgh and a four game split with Philly as well. While they did not carry over the same momentous level of success of the Crew in 2011, they have sustained a high level of performance regardless.

The team itself has driven in the second most runs in the National League with 115. They have the fourth-highest batting average as a squad with .276 and have hit an astounding 31 home runs, second only to the division leading Cincinnati Reds. They lead the Senior Circuit in both slugging percentage (.455) and OPS with .780. Why the sudden turnaround?

One needs to look no further than the meat of the Milwaukee order. In this case, that means Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, and Jonathan Lucroy. Between them, this collection of hitters has brought 21 of Milwaukee’s 31 August dingers, along with driving in 62 of their 102 team runs. It’s the kind of production that makes you sit up and pay attention, and the middle of the lineup is reminding you why you need to keep tuning in.

But it’s not just the batting that’s keeping this team plugging away well into August. Milwaukee pitching

Yovani Gallardo is in a class all his own this month with a perfect 4-0 record. (Benny Sieu - US PRESSWIRE)

is holding its own as well – even in the bullpen. The team has converted eight of ten saves in August which is the third highest in the NL by the numbers and near the top in percentage as well. John Axford and Jim Henderson each have three of those saves in four attempts apiece. They have also struck out a league-leading 210 batters despite pitching only 208.2 innings, second least in the National League.

The newly departed Randy Wolf and newly rehabilitated Shaun Marcum aside, every Milwaukee starter has a winning record in August, with Yovani leading the group with an impressive 4-0 record on the month in four starts. Five of Milwaukee’s 13 pitchers have ERA’s under three, with eight of them posting sub-4.00 ERA’s for August.

It’s a tad too late for a team to be finding their groove, but I’m okay with Milwaukee blooming in 2012. It sets up for a fantastically optimistic 2013 season, and gives fans something more exciting to keep track of during the dwindling months of the baseball season.

Regardless of their record, the Brewers are playing some damn good baseball in August. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Topics: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo

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