There have been plenty of ups and downs for the Milwaukee Brewers to start the 2019 season, and there’s been both some very entertaining games, mostly because the Brewers have played only very high level teams to start this season.
The Milwaukee Brewers have seen a lot of familiar opponents after just getting out of a strange two week stretch where they played only the Dodgers and the Cardinals, two very high level teams. They also played the Cardinals in the Opening Series, and have met with the Reds, Cubs, Angels, Mets, and Rockies as well, all teams who are very dangerous and not easy wins by any stretch of the imagination.
What does the tough schedule mean for the pitching staff?
For a team that is coming off of an NLCS appearance last season, the Milwaukee Brewers are oddly still unsure of multiple areas, particularly the pitching staff. With three young guys in Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes all in the Opening Day rotation, a gauntlet schedule to open the year isn’t exactly doing them any favors.
It’s not just the starters either, as the bullpen has had it’s struggles as well. When we all saw that Corey Knebel went down for the year, and that Jeremy Jeffress was going to miss the first two weeks, it looked like a more manageable situation than what it turned out to be. Jeffress is now back, but not back to closing yet, and the tough offenses they’ve faced have really done a number on both the bullpen and the rotation.
Will the schedule get easier?
The problem now is that the schedule is not letting up anytime soon. The tough opponents in the NL East await the Milwaukee Brewers in May. The schedule includes the Mets for four, seven games against Philadelphia, three against Washington, and three against Atlanta. All four of those teams are part of one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. The Brewers will not see the rebuilding Marlins until June, in what would be arguably their first “easy” series of the year.
Along with those teams, the Brewers will play the Cubs, Reds, Twins, and the Pirates for the first time this season late in May. The biggest standout from the month of May will be the team’s longest road trip of the entire season, a 12-day, 10-game stretch.
That trip starts with off in Chicago against the rival Cubs, goes to Philadelphia and ends in Atlanta. That is key stretch where if a team isn’t in a good state during that trip, it could be detrimental given the level of competition they’ll face, and the fact that they’ll be away from their hitter friendly home for so long.
What else is coming up for the Brewers?
Getting back to Miami, they might be one of the only easier series for the whole season for the Brewers as well, as the NL is a very well balanced and competitive league, and they play the AL West in the inter-league games.
Every team in the AL West division, except the Rangers, has a lot of talent and has playoff aspirations. Those are games that could have been filled by other easier teams depending on the year. However, facing the 2017 World Champion Astros in early September will be a good test as to the state of the team.
As far as the NL, teams like the Padres and Pirates may seem like easier series, but Brewer fans know very well that the Pirates can be a thorn in their side, regardless of how good either team is. And the Padres are a young, talented team that are much more established with the signing of Manny Machado and call-up of Fernando Tatis Jr.
So that leaves teams like the Giants and Diamondbacks as easier series, but even then there are plenty of veterans on those teams who know how to win. The Brewers will have to show up in those series to avoid disappointing losses. They can only play the Marlins seven times, and don’t get some of the rebuilding teams in the AL such as the Tigers, Orioles, White Sox or Royals, three of which they played last season.
What about the NL Central?
And while the NL East is a deep and competitive division, the Brewers being in the NL Central have to play two top-10 baseball teams, the Cardinals and Cubs, over 20 times each, of which they have already split 5-5 against St. Louis and went 2-1 vs Chicago. Along with pesky but talented teams Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, this division will never pose an easy challenge, and will more than likely require the Brewers to top their performance from last season to repeat as division champions.
Overall, the Milwaukee Brewers have a significantly tougher schedule than they did a season ago, and that is amplified by the issues they are currently facing with their pitching staff as well as certain players struggling offensively. On paper, the Brewers are a better team than 2018, but they will have to continue to prove that against a tougher schedule, and more interesting challenges for Craig Counsell and David Stearns to navigate through.