As the calendar is about to turn to July, the Milwaukee Brewers still find themselves in first place. Whether or not the team makes the playoffs will be determined in the next few weeks.
Chase Anderson is injured. He’s going to be out until at least August. He’s been one of the best pitchers on this team this year and his loss is a devastating blow. It’s going to be incredibly hard to replace Anderson’s production and the Brewers can’t afford to lose his production.
Let’s be honest here, the Milwaukee Brewers have been treading water. They’re two games above .500. If this was any other year, they would be the third or fourth best team in the division. But somehow, they’re in first place and a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs who are in complete disarray right now. The Brewers have incredible team chemistry and have no expectations weighing on them. This may be the only time in the next five years that the Cubs will be playing this badly. The division is wide open for the Brewers to take.
The Brewers have been incredibly lucky to have held the division since June 7, and they haven’t really done anything about it. Since that no-rain rainout in Chicago on May 20, the Brewers are 16-22 with a -24 Run Differential. With the trade deadline looming, decision time is coming on whether or not to buy or sell.
What Will It Take To Win The Division?
The Milwaukee Brewers need to rally around each other and put together a winning streak. If they don’t, the clock may strike midnight on this Cinderella season and their first place carriage could turn into a third place pumpkin in less than a month. But if the glass shoe(slipper) fits, and they can turn things around after Anderson’s injury, they could end up in the postseason.
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What the Brewers do from right now through the first week or two in July will be the most critical point in the season. If they can fend off the Cubs and the Cardinals and extend their lead, they can win the division outright. If they can’t and fall to third place after this latest injury, it will be time to sell and the clock will strike midnight on the Brewers’ playoff push.
While most predicted the NL Central would be one of the best divisions in baseball, it actually ranks among the worst this year. No one seems to want to take control and the Brewers have barely been treading water for a month. They have had every opportunity to leave the Cubs in the dust, but have been unable to do so. That’s why this is such a critical time for the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ve made a small push for the playoffs, but aren’t willing to go for it this year.
Why Has The Team Struggled?
The offense is sputtering. Eric Thames has hit .192 over his last 30 games, which is only slightly ahead of Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies, and Matt Garza. Keon Broxton leads the league in strikeouts. Hernan Perez has also struggled lately. The Brewers have scored six or more runs in only nine of their last 27 games. Eric Thames was likely to come down to earth after his out-of-this-world April, but he didn’t just fall to earth. He’s crash landed without a parachute.
The offense is going to need to figure things out, Thames especially.
While the Brewers are incredibly deep across most positions, that depth is being tested right now. The pitching depth has taken a hit. Josh Hader is currently in the bullpen. Brandon Woodruff is still on the DL. Jorge Lopez is moved to the bullpen long term. Paolo Espino is currently in the bullpen.
With Chase Anderson out, it’s up to Jimmy Nelson to anchor the rotation.
The Milwaukee Brewers need a hot streak and build up a big enough lead to hold teams off until October. 2014 taught us that no division lead is safe, but the bigger the lead, the more difficult it is to blow.
The Brewers were able to survive losing Ryan Braun for over a month. They will have to do the same without Chase Anderson. If they can survive the loss of Anderson, the Milwaukee Brewers have an incredible chance to make the playoffs.