Not a perennial threat by any measure, the Brewers have played above expectations in 2017. However, they’ve started to fall off a tad the second half of the season. But don’t count them out.
One of the first half’s biggest surprises, the Brewers have had somewhat of a fall from grace since the All-Star Break. But in no means have they become irrelevant. Tied in the standings with the Cardinals going into Friday, Milwaukee has flown under the radar these past few months as a constant threat in the playoff race. We need to keep our eye on the Brew Crew as the pennant chase comes to a close, and to do otherwise would be nothing but folly.
First of all, we need to address the overlying issue at hand: the pennant chase. As it stands, the most likely route for the Cardinals to reach the playoffs would be through the Wild Card. The main obstacle for a spot in the Wild Card game is a scuffling Colorado Rockies team, who sits just three games above of the Cardinals going into play Friday.
The Cubs, however, have hit somewhat of a hot streak in the last two weeks, and are playing like their 2016 selves. This recent surge has put them 5 games up of the Cardinals, and the gap only looks to expand unless the Red Birds can take a majority of the six remaining games they have with Chicago.
Either way, there is work to be done, but a playoff spot for the Cardinals is certainly manageable to say the least. All of the Cards’ remaining games are intra-division match-ups, and seeing as they play in the weakest division in baseball, this should pose for them some very winnable games in the coming weeks.
I wouldn’t say they control their own destiny, but they have a large say in it, as the Rockies, who are not the team they were the first two months of the year, still have 12 games left against the D’Backs and Dodgers. But, at the end of the day, it will all come down to execution, who can get the job done in the right moment, at the right time.
Going into Friday, the Brewers were deadlocked in the race with the Cardinals with an identical record of 72-68. Coming off a sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee will look to turn things around in a weekend series in Chicago.
As a team, nothing particularly jumps off the page about this team. They rank 11th in the NL in runs, 12th in average, and 10th in OPS. They are the quintessential “all or nothing” team, ranking second in the National League in homers, and last in strikeouts.
Their pitching is a little more impressive, but no where near extraordinary. As a staff, they have posted a 4.10 ERA, which ranks sixth in the NL. They also rank sixth in earned runs and total runs allowed. One area in which they excel is recorded saves, a department in which they lead the league with 49. Yet this may just imply that they are playing a lot of close games, and not blowing teams out.
There’s no denying, as well, that the Brewers lack an outright star. Ryan Braun is still a good player, but he is nowhere near the guy he was in his MVP season of 2011. The next closest thing they have to a Most Valuable Player would have to be Travis Shaw, who, before this year, was really just a guy trying to find his place in the league. And that just their offense. I can barely name a guy on their pitching staff without using the amazing technology of Google that we have at our fingertips.
But, perhaps, this lack of fire power is why the Brew Crew has flown so under the radar, and why we should be so careful.
Have you ever been playing poker, or even been watching poker, and been in/seen a situation where everyone has folded by the flop, except for the two powerhouses at the table with all the chips? It’s just those two going at it, raising the stakes on each other as the flop is dealt, and then the river. It’s all down to these two, all eyes on them, and as the big reveal comes, bam, a third, unnoticed player wins all the chips in the pot, driven to astronomical size by the one on one settings of the two big guns.
That third, silent killer is the Brewers. They aren’t a flashy squad, they don’t have much star power on their roster, and they aren’t a franchise caked in gold. As most people see it, it’s a consistent, historic franchise in the Cardinals going up against either the defending champions in the Cubs or an explosive, dynamic team in the Rockies, depending on which path you prefer. Either way, all eyes are on those match-ups, the teams with the legacies, the attractions, the eye-popping stars. That’s what gets media attraction, that’s what gets all the focus, just like the big dogs at the poker table turn the cameras to them.
Meanwhile, the Brewer’s are just sitting back quietly, with a a low stack of chips and nothing to lose, but everything to gain.