Milwaukee Brewers: First Place Early in NL Central Standings

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 22: Christian Yelich
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 22: Christian Yelich /

The Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the NL Central Standings as of April 25, 2018 . This is despite a rough start due to depth and a good record against non-NL Central teams.

The Milwaukee Brewers gave fans something to cheer about after sweeping the San Diego Padres in California to begin the season. New additions Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich played well and Ryan Braun hit a game-winning home run to cap off a big game 2 comeback.

The Crew opened the season in Milwaukee with optimism and a 3-0 record. However, the Brewers proceeded to drop two of three games to key NL Central rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. 

The Brewers will need to play better against their rivals to earn a first place finish in the 2018 NL Central Standings.

The Brewers also lost some important players to injury during the early part of this season. The bullpen lost new acquisition Boone Logan before the season started and then it lost closer Corey Knebel in April.

Christian Yelich suffered a tight oblique, which led to a DL stint in April. On the 25 of the month, 1B Eric Thames landed on the DL with torn ligaments in his left thumb.

Milwaukee Brewers bullpen depth helps club lead NL Central Standings

General Manager David Stearns decided not to re-sign Anthony Swarzak during the 2017-2018 offseason. Instead, Stearns acquired several relief pitchers at a lower cost to buoy the young, 1-2 punch of Josh Hader and Knebel.

Injuries led to opportunities in the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen. Matt Albers, Jacob Barnes, and Jeremy Jeffress have pitched well. And Hader might be the best reliever in the entire MLB early on in the 2018 season.

Recently, Milwaukee even won Bullpen of the Week without Knebel.

Jeffress plays a unique role. One might refer to him as the starting pitcher’s closer. Jeffress often comes in directly after the starting pitcher leaves a game to clean up an inning by stranding inherited runners. Brewers Manager Craig Counsell loves it.

"“I’ve kind of looked at him as he’s been a closer in the middle innings, almost. That’s the role he’s assumed for us a little bit and he’s gotten some very big outs,” Counsell raves."

Meanwhile, Hader has maintained a mesmerizing strikeout rate over 20 to begin the year. Furthermore, Matt Albers has an ERA of 1.42 and WHIP of 0.947 after eleven appearances and Jacob Barnes has an ERA of 1.38 and a WHIP of 1.00 after 10 appearances.

The Brewers bullpen should get better when Logan and Knebel get healthy, but the team needs to get innings out of their starting staff so their bullpen’s arms do not wear down as the season progresses. It might be a key to maintaining first place in the NL Central Standings.

Milwaukee Brewers hitter depth also helps club maintain lead in NL Central Standings

The Brewers put Yelich and Thames on the DL at points early in 2018, and Milwaukee has also dealt with injuries to Steven Vogt, Ryan Braun, Manny Pina, and Orlando Arcia.

Lorenzo Cain has been a consistent force atop the Brewers lineup with a 0.421 OBP as of April 25. Jesus Aguilar is also off to a hot start including one 13-pitch at-bat that the player impressed even himself with.

“Not even in Nintendo!” Aguilar said in response to his long battle and walk-off home run against the Florida Marlins.

Aguilar will get more at-bats with Thames on the DL. The Brewers might also continue using Ryan Braun at 1B to spell Aguilar and ensure the other team outfielders get plenty of playing time.

Domingo Santana has yet to get it going like he did during the 2017 season, but Brewers 3B Travis Shaw has five home runs and a 0.937 OPS as of April 25.

Utility players such as Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard and Hernan Perez have also ably filled in when needed on the infield.

The Milwaukee Brewers have dealt with injuries during the early 2018 season, but the team’s depth has helped them beat the teams they should beat. The Crew swept the Padres and the Marlins.

They say a team can’t win a championship at the beginning of the year, but it can lose one. Well, with its rivals also struggling to start 2018, Milwaukee finds itself in first place on April 25 despite many injuries.

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The Brewers roster depth will help them all year. The team will need their starters to pitch more innings to save the arms of their efficient bullpen going forward, but there is reason for optimism in Milwaukee as of April 25 for Brewers fans.