The Good: Last season’s NL MVP Ryan Braun is carrying Milwaukee. Braun leads the team in average, homeruns, RBIs, OBP, and slugging percentage, while ranking in the top-10 in the NL in each category and stealing 16 bases. If Braun wasn’t playing on a 42-46, 4th place team, he would easily be a contender to repeat as MVP.
The Bad: The offense besides Braun. Milwaukee ranks 22nd in the majors in batting average, 16th in OBP, and a mediocre 11th and 10th in runs scored and slugging percentage, respectively. Rickie Weeks has had an atrocious year, hitting only .199 with just 8 homers and 32 RBIs, while last year’s sparkplug Nyjer Morgan is struggling with a .228 average. Injuries to starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy and starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez haven’t helped Milwaukee replace Prince Fielder’s offensive production.
The X-Factor: Going into 2012, the combination of set-up man Francisco Rodriguez and closer John Axford looked as good as any in baseball. Unfortunately for the Brewers, Axford has blown five saves while posting a 4.84 ERA while “K-Rod” has walked 4 batters per 9 innings and allowed 9 hits per 9 innings. Axford is still striking out 12.7 hitters per 9 innings while posting a low batting average against of .239, and Rodriguez certainly has enough of a track record to quell concern. Relievers Manny Parra, Kameron Loe, and Jose Veras, all have ERAs north of 4.00, so St. Louis could have some success against the Brewers’ bullpen even before encountering Rodriguez and Axford.