While the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals have sputtered in recent weeks, the Brewers have taken a stranglehold on the National League Central.
While having a six-game cushion in early July is a great spot to be in – especially given how Milwaukee tends to play their best baseball at the end of the season under Craig Counsell– now is certainly not the time to get too comfortable.
This article will explore three things the Milwaukee Brewers should do between now and the end of the season, in order to maximize their chances for a division title and deep playoff run.
1. Rest the rotation when necessary
With Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta, the Brewers have the best trio of starting pitchers in all of baseball this season. Burnes and Woody were both named to the NL All-Star team, and Freddy has a strong case that he was a snub. Freddy Peralta currently has a WHIP of 0.90 in 93 innings pitched, and he trails only Jacob deGrom in strikeouts per 9 innings, with 12.62.
As the season drifts into the dog days of July and August, it would be smart of the Milwaukee front office and coaching staff to keep an eye on the pitch counts of each of these three aces, to ensure that they are at full strength come September and October.
Given the current state of the division, Milwaukee can afford to drop a game or two in favor of this strategy. Guys like Aaron Ashby and Alec Bettinger may get chances for spot-starts periodically, in addition to depth pieces like Eric Lauer.
This is why the Brewers have continued to give their starters an extra day of rest between starts all season long, utilizing off days and a six man rotation at times to give them that extra rest. It’s worked to this point, and they need to continue doing it.
2. Swing a Deal for a First Baseman
While this may seem like less of a pressing concern than it did a few weeks ago, given Keston Hiura’s success at the plate since his return from his second stint at AAA-Nashville, the Brewers should still peruse the market for a first baseman and try to find a deal that makes sense. Two names immediately come to mind, CJ Cron of the Colorado Rockies, and Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles.
Cron is a slightly more realistic option, given that he signed a minor league deal with Colorado prior to this season, and is not known as an elite player but more of a solid, average right-handed power bat. The 31-year-old has been productive in 2021, with 11 home runs and an .819 OPS for a Rockies team that is 16.5 games back of first place. Assuming the Rockies decide to sell, expect Milwaukee to be in on discussions for Cron
Acquiring Trey Mancini would be more ambitious and expensive, but the Brewers front office has shown in the past that they are not afraid to sacrifice some minor league talent when the major league club is in a position to contend. Trey Mancini has been exceptional this season for Baltimore, with 15 home runs and a .782 OPS. He has been versatile in his career, seeing time at both first base and the corner outfield positions.
His season has been perhaps the best feel-good story in all of baseball, considering that he missed all of last season due to a cancer diagnosis. Mancini would be a great addition to the Brewers family.
3. Take care of business against the Central
Currently, the Cincinnati Reds are in second place behind Milwaukee. With the All Star Break in-between, the Brewers will play the Reds in back-to-back series starting on Thursday of this week. Taking care of business during this stretch and winning at least 5 of those 7 games would go a long way in widening the gap between the two clubs and increasing Milwaukee’s division championship hopes further.
As for the rest of the schedule, over half of the 76 remaining games (51%) will come against the NL Central. Divisional games are usually never easy because there’s no secrets between the two teams, so it is of paramount importance that Milwaukee goes into those series focused and ready to win.
Let’s hope the Brewers can continue their scorching hot summer and cruise into October with the rest of the NL Central on the outside looking in.