The Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff is playing a pivotal role early this season. Milwaukee is 17-12, good enough for a three-way tie for the best record in the NL. How the Brewers did this without star outfielder Christian Yelich and Corbin Burnes is a fascinating story. It has to do with combining things that play a role: starting pitching and a bullpen that combine for a 3.64 ERA. Plus, timely hitting and wise use of the 40-man roster. With 15 players currently on the IL, it’s somewhat of a surprise they’re playing so well.
Inside the Brewers Pitching Depth
Things have been bizarre yet suitable for the Brewers. They have received excellent performances from their starting pitchers. Before landing on the IL, Burnes was the hottest pitcher in the rotation owned a 1.53 ERA. The other starters have been impressive too. Brandon Woodruff holds a 1.80 ERA, Freddy Peralta has a 2.25 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched. Adrian Houser has a 3.52 ERA. But, Brett Anderson has a 4.15 ERA who allowed three earned runs in his last start.
The back end of the Brewers bullpen has vastly improved. Since April 19, Josh Hader, Devin Williams, J.P. Feyereisen, and Brad Boxberger have combined to throw a 0.91 ERA. But, as a collective, a 4.27 ERA is below the league average. Injuries are another factor since it was supposed to feature Justin Topa and Eric Yardley. Topa (elbow) is on the 60-Day IL, while Yardley (shoulder) could be ready in a week. Due to the injuries, the Brewers added Jordan Zimmerman and Patrick Weigel. They join a bullpen that features two inexperienced yet promising Drew Rasmussen and Angel Perdomo.
The Defense Is Paying Off
Milwaukee has emphasized defense and run prevention during the offseason. Acquiring free agents Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kolten Wong have paid off well through the first few weeks of the season. Both players are making highlight-reel plays that preserve victories and save runs. The club’s fielding percentage is .986 percent, eighth-best in the league. They have 14 defensive runs saved, which is seven behind the league-leading Washington Nationals. With the bullpen being used more effectively, it keeps the pressure off the slumping offense.
Offense Has Time to Improve
Offensively, the Brewers slash line is .217/.302/.373, 86 wRC+ (100 is league average). That batting average ranks 27th. That on-base percentage ranks 26th. That slugging percentage ranks 23rd. That wRC+ is 19 percent higher than the last-place team in that position, the 8-22 Detroit Tigers. There is good news; there’s plenty of time for the bats to come alive, especially key contributors back in the lineup. Yelich and Lorenzo Cain made their return to the lineup Monday night. But Yelich is back on the IL with a back injury. Before he was out, Yelich started to look like himself, hitting a .333/.459/.367 slash line.
What’s Next For the Brewers
Injuries to key players have had a noticeable effect on the Brewers’ offense, with signs of a turnaround coming sooner than later. However, there’s no doubt that this team can pitch, and it’s the reason they’re atop the NL Central. If the pitching can keep up like this, they could make the postseason for the fourth consecutive year, a first in club history.