There’s no getting around it. The last week has been one of the roughest ones that the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans can remember in years.
It started at a trade deadline that saw the team trade away their beloved star closer, sign two relievers that caused them to immediately designate one of pieces from the aforementioned trade for assignment, and not add a much wanted (needed?) bat.
Then, as players and fans were still trying to process what had just happened, Milwaukee went out and got swept by the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates on the road before losing a series at home to the equally lowly Cincinnati Reds, going 1-5 following the trade deadline after going 7-2 out of the All-Star break.
To top things off, they lost their NL Central lead to the St. Louis Cardinals, who now lead Milwaukee in the division by two games. So, Brewers fans will have to be forgiven for feeling that things currently look a little bleak.
But these are the Milwaukee Brewers! The same team that has made the postseason a franchise record four straight years and still happen to be eight games over .500 as of Monday. They fought through a bit of adversity once already this season when they got past an eight-game losing streak in June and there are reasons to believe they can do it once again.
Here are three reasons why the Milwaukee Brewers can still win the NL Central division.
1. The Brewers are a Top 10 run-scoring team.
Yes, it would have been nice if Milwaukee had added a bat at the trade deadline. Yes, the offense has gone through dry spells at points this season. And yet, some just refuse to believe that the Crew are one of the better run-scoring teams in the league.
But that is the reality whether you choose to believe it or not. The Brewers are scoring 4.63 runs per game through their first 108 games of the 2022 season. That’s good for MLB’s 8th best mark going into Monday’s games and exceeds the 4.48 runs per game the team scored in 2021.
Even their recent six-game swoon hasn’t seen the offense die down that much as they scored 4.33 runs per game during that stretch. If not for late-inning meltdowns in four of the five losses, the last six games could have looked much different.
Every position player currently on the Brewers roster has a wRC+ of 93 or higher (100 is considered league average). They have two players who already have 22 homers this season (Willy Adames, Rowdy Tellez) and one close behind with 19 (Hunter Renfroe). Since taking over as the team’s leadoff hitter on June 8th, Christian Yelich has the 5th best OBP (.414) in all of MLB.
The offense has largely been there this season. If it stays there going forward, the Brewers will continue to be competitive.
2. The Brewers still have some of the scariest pitchers in the league.
Milwaukee went into this season knowing that they were a team built around a strong pitching staff. Though there have been some unexpected bumps and bruises along the way, they still have some of the most feared pitchers in not just the division, but the National League.
2022 NL Cy Young award winner Corbin Burnes is having another fine season and is 6th in the NL with a 3.1 fWAR. Brandon Woodruff had a rocky start to his season but has only given up more than two earned runs once in his last ten starts.
And now the third part of the three-headed rotation monster, Freddy Peralta, is back in the rotation after missing a significant part of the season due to injury. That, combined with Eric Lauer having a second straight solid season means the rotation will be a force down the stretch.
And even though losing Hader hurts, the Brewers have an awfully good backup option in Devin Williams, who went a team record 30 straight appearances without giving up a run just a little while ago and is the only other player besides Hader to win NL Reliever of the Year over the last four seasons (2020).
Milwaukee also received reliever Taylor Rogers, who is 2nd in the NL in saves and a fellow All-Star, as part of the return for Hader. Those two, combined with 2022 bullpen standouts Brad Boxberger and Hoby Milner as well as newly acquired Matt Bush, should give the Crew as good a chance as any at closing out late wins, their recent small sample size notwithstanding.
3. The Cardinals didn’t add that much at the trade deadline.
If you think the Brewers aren’t going to go down without a fight, you know darn well that the Cardinals aren’t either. Nearly every season prediction expected the NL Central to be a battle between the two teams and that’s exactly what has transpired in 2022.
But like the Brewers, the Cardinals weren’t without their faults heading into this year’s trade deadline. Aside from being players in the Juan Soto sweepstakes, St. Louis had starting pitching as their main deadline need.
After failing to land Soto, the Cards did in fact end up adding a couple starters at the deadline. Those starters were Jose Quintana of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jordan Montgomery of the New York Yankees.
Quintana was having a decent year with the Pirates before being acquired, pitching to a 3.50 ERA in 20 starts. Montgomery wasn’t far behind with a 3.69 ERA in 21 starts himself. But will those two names be enough to move the needle for a team that is 22nd in MLB with a combined 7.0 pitcher’s fWAR (the Brewers are 11th at 10.9)?
The Cardinals are just a few hundredths of a point above the Brewers in runs per game with 4.68 and though the Crew in batting average on the season (.252 to .240) they trail in OPS (.733 to .740). With so many statistical categories being so close, there’s as much reason that Milwaukee finishes the season atop the division as there is St. Louis.
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Just under two months remain in the 2022 regular season. The Milwaukee Brewers can absolutely take back the NL Central and win it in that time.