Monday, September 17, 2012

Brewers Making a Late-Season Push

Say what you want about the additional 2 wild cards, but nobody can deny that it certainly has created more excitement for the last month of the season. If it weren't for these additional playoff spots, the National League would have pretty much been locked up 6 weeks ago, and many fans would have switched to preseason football.  At the beginning of August, the Braves were coasting, the Pirates finally looked like they were going to get things together, and the Yankees had a 10 game lead in the division.  But now here we are, with 16 games left in the season, and all of sudden we have tight races in 4 of the 6 divisions, and in 3 of the 4 wild cards.  As of September 17th, 19 of the 30 teams still have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, and this is exactly what Selig wanted when creating the additional wild cards - more parody, more playoff money, and more excitement down the stretch for more cities.

Leading the charge of the second-half surgers are the white-hot Milwaukee Brewers, who I believe have won something like 22 of their last 28 and are trying to give the Cardinals a taste of their own medicine pulling within 2.5 games of the 2nd wild card.  Everybody, myself included, counted the Brewers as dead after an embarassing sweep in Philadelphia in July and trading Zack Greinke shortly thereafter.  With a rotation that at one point featured four rookies, the Brewers have clawed and scratched their way out of a hole and proved doubters wrong.  The offense has been remarkable all year and has been the most exciting I have seen in a long time - they're smart hitters, they hit in the clutch, they hit for power, they run the bases aggressively, and they steal bases.  The Brewers lead the league in homeruns, extra base hits, slugging, and are 2nd in steals.  Starting pitching has also been pretty solid since May, and the defense should turn out at least one gold-glover in Aramis Ramirez.  Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, Norichika Aoki, and Jean Segura all began the year either not starting at their current position or were in the minors, and have all stepped up to play great D as well.  And Ryan Braun has followed up his 2011 MVP campaign with another MVP-quality season, but that rests in the hands of the voters and the team's performance.  The Brewers always seem to put together a run in August and they've been very exciting to watch lately.  Anyone who has watched the Crew this year knows that the bullpen is probably the sole reason the Brewers are not leading the division right now.  They lead all of baseball in blown saves, so it is not surprising that the key to the resurgence has been the relative stability of the relief core.  If the bullpen can hold it together for another two weeks, the Brewers have a legitimate shot at this, because the three teams ahead of them - Dodgers, Cardinals, and Pirates - all look lifeless right now.  The upcoming 10-game roadtrip to Pittsburgh, Washington, and Cincinnati will be the ultimate test to determine if this team truly is good enough to make any noise in the playoffs.

Brewers 74-72, -13.5, -2.5 WC (3 @ Pirates, 4 @ Nationals)
Reds 88-59, +11.0 (3 @ Cubs, 3 v. Dodgers)
Twins 60-87, -20.0 E (3 @ Indians, 3 @ Tigers)

Erik - 31
Peter - 40

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