Photo Credit: BENNY SIEU — WTMJ-TV
Milwaukee has a 5.5 game lead over the Cubs in the Central, while the team is also 10 games over .500; yet Fangraphs isn’t super high on the Brewers’ odds of making the playoffs. Their odds are so low despite the Brew Crews’ consistent performance throughout the season and the impressive offense that general manager David Stearns has assembled.
In 2017 the Brewers are averaging 5 runs per game, primarily because of their power and their average on base ability. As a team, Milwaukee is posting an isolated slugging percentage (ISO) of .197 — second only to the Astros in baseball, and tops in the National League. This power increase has helped the Brewers consistently knock in the runners that they’ve been able to get on. One of the major players behind Milwaukee’s power surge this season is outfielder Eric Thames.
Thames has seen a career renasience in Milwaukee this season. The 30-year old has an ISO of .310, which is almost double his career average, while he’s walking at a slightly higher clip than his normal as well. Because of his higher walk rate, he is posting a OBP of .374 (.052 higher than his career mark).
Another player that’s seeing a career resurgence in Milwaukee is second baseman Eric Sogard. The 31-year old isn’t hitting for power, but what Sogard is doing getting on base and keeping his strikeouts to a bare minimum; he’s currently striking out in 12.3% of his plate appearances, while walking in 13.6%…that means his OBP is .438 this season. Sogard is getting on base at such a high clip because of his high BABIP at .372, which is higher than it’s ever been throughout his career.
While these offensive numbers are above the career norms for both Sogard and Thames, we’ve reached the point in the season where their numbers have stabilized for the season. And that’s pretty much what we’re seeing across the board when looking through the Brewers stats this season; we’re seeing players that are out performing their career norms, but they’ve been doing it all season long. What makes this encouraging for the Brewers is that none of their core players are over the age of 32; this means that all of them are still in the middle of their prime years. Which means it’s likely these players will continue to perform at similar levels throughout the season — instead of falling off — and (probably) push the team into the playoffs
Milwaukee also has a promising young core featuring Orlando Arcia, Travis Shaw, and Manny Pina that are learning what it’s like to be at the front of the playoff race.
From the pitching perspective, the Brew Crew is pitching 4.09/4.36/4.36 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) while stranding 74.5% of runners — sixth highest stranded rate in baseball, second in the NL. The Brewers have a high stranded rate because their giving up a bunch of hits, opponents are hitting .252 against them and they’re walking 9.1% of opposing hitters, but they aren’t letting the runners that get on score…which allows Milwaukee’s offense to bury their opponents.
The Brewers’ pitching staff is led by 28-year old Jimmy Nelson. Nelson is in his fourth year in the big leagues and he’s been steadily improving throughout his time with Milwaukee; this season, he is currently pitching 3.30/3.17/3.30 in 109 innings. He’s been the king of letting runners get on and then stranding them as batters are hitting .260 off of him, but Nelson is stranding 77.2% of those that reach. Once he’s able to limit his opponents’ batting average, the 28-year old has the potential to be something really special.
Don’t be surprised if Milwaukee wins the Central, instead of Chicago, they’ve got the offensive talent and just enough pitching to hold onto the division. But the fact that opposing teams are constantly getting hits off of their pitching staff could be problematic in the short playoffs.