Just a few years ago, you would have never heard anyone saying that the Brewers have great starting pitching, yet are still struggling to win. Those were the days when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder were arguably the best 3-4 combo in a Major League lineup at the time. Those were the days when Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee were actually threats at the plate, not liabilities. Unfortunately, the Brewers had one of the worst rotations in baseball during those years. Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, Ben Sheets (who actually did have a few good years), Doug Davis, Braden Looper- the list of failures, for the most part, as starters goes on and on.
Oh, how things can change in just two or so years.
Today, it’s the complete opposite. The Brewers offense has been sub-par, to say the least, this year. They’re .239 team batting average is the third-worst in the National League, only ahead of the awful offenses of the Pirates and Padres. Braun is still here and producing (but I have to admit he’s had some very bad at-bats lately, despite his success). Offseason pickup Aramis Ramirez finally appears to be heating up. The other consistent power source as of late, surprisingly, is Martin Maldonado (note that he was hitting .198 at Triple-A Nashville prior to his call-up). But, other than that, the offense is as inconsistent as it’s ever been. Corey Hart has produced solid power numbers at times, but it feels like he’s even streakier than in recent years. Weeks has been hitting below the Mendoza line pretty much all year, and it looks like he’s becoming the 2012 version of Adam Dunn.
But the one thing the Brewers can take pride in- at least right now- is the consistency of their starting pitching, especially lately. Coming into today, Brewers starters had a 2.25 ERA in their last nine games. And that ERA probably went down after Michael Fiers’ nice performance in Minnesota today. Unfortunately, though, the Brewers starters’ record in this ten game span is just 4-1. Not to say that’s a bad record or anything, but, thanks to the offense and bullpen, the starters aren’t factoring in near as many decisions as they should. And, the Brewers’ record in this span of great pitching is 6-4. That does include series wins against the Padres and Twins, but the crushing blow was the sweep in Kansas City, despite great outings from Zack Greinke, Randy Wolf, and Shaun Marcum. Wolf and Marcum should have each had wins that series, but the Brewers’ bullpen, paired with some questionable defense, managed to embarrassingly lose those games.
This run of starting pitching will have to return to earth eventually, but, before it ends, the Brewers need to capitalize on it. Their record currently stands at 30-35, fourth in the NL Central. Had the Brewers been able to win those two games they blew in KC, they could be hovering around .500, rather than sitting at the position they’re in. That position is 7.5 games behind the first place Reds, who are on a tear after winning their fifth consecutive game today. So the Brewers are still in shouting distance because of where we are in the season, but now is the time to pick up ground. The starting pitching has responded to this, but the offense and bullpen have yet to get the memo. They’ll need to soon if the Brewers want to make a season of this.