As of May 19th, the Milwaukee Brewers are in sole possession of first place in the NL Central. I repeat, the Brewers are in first place in the NL Central. The rebuild isn’t expected to be completed yet but could the Brew Crew be ahead of schedule and contend this year? Not so fast.
You can turn off your Xbox, turn off MLB The Show, and turn off your Virtual Reality Headset, the result is still the same: The Milwaukee Brewers lead the NL Central. This is real, this is actually happening. It isn’t a dream. But the idea of this team contending for a playoff spot come September may be more of a fantasy.
Yes, the offense is firing on all cylinders, and this lineup has shown good balance and a lot of power, but it won’t last forever. The Brewers won’t hit like this all season and will go through a cold stretch at some point this season. It happens to every team at some point every year. As soon as The Crew loses their grip on first place and the Cubs or Cardinals take over the top spot, there’s no getting it back.
What About The Pitching?
Even if the offense did continue to hit like this the rest of the season, the pitching staff will be the downfall of the Milwaukee Brewers’ playoff hopes. The team ERA is middling and has a league worst .272 opponent batting average against. The starting rotation can’t pitch deep into games and that only leads to more problems. Short outings lead to an overworked bullpen as the season wears on. We’ve seen this already this season as the Milwaukee Brewers relievers have had trouble getting outs in big moments.
The few bright spots of this pitching staff are Matt Garza and Corey Knebel. That’s not exactly going to lead a team to October baseball. They’ve done a great job this year, don’t get me wrong, but the team needs more than a competent starter and high-leverage reliever to compete in a playoff race.
If you watched any part of the World Series last season, you saw how effective a strong pitching staff can be and Aroldis Chapman showed what happens when relievers get overworked. Both Chicago and Cleveland had strong, deep starting rotations that pulled their teams through the playoffs. The Brewers don’t possess that. They don’t possess anything close to it.
Each of the Brewers starters is averaging fewer than six innings per outing and the team ERA is well north of 4.00. Struggling pitching will not completely be remedied by a dominant offense. Pitching wins championships and the Milwaukee Brewers do not have championship caliber pitching. So enjoy this hot streak while it lasts, because it will come to an end at some point.
The rebuild may even be ahead of schedule, but not so far ahead that contention is possible in 2017. Originally, 2019 was the estimate for contention. However, after the dominant performance of the offense to start this season, perhaps 2018 can be the first year of contention for the young Brewers.
Thoughts of the Milwaukee Brewers playing in October this season are great, but premature. Give it time, have patience, there’s no need to rush the process. Besides, we’ve been waiting since 1982 to get to the World Series, what’s one more year?