If the Milwaukee Brewers want to get back in the playoff hunt during the second half of the season then they will need several players to step up their game.
Being eight games out of first place in the NL Central division seems like a lot to overcome, however, the Brewers are nowhere near out of it. Milwaukee must buckle down and believe they can power through their first-half struggles in order to be in the running come September.
The bullpen needs to get on the same page as the starting rotation and the offense needs to help Ryan Braun shoulder the load. The fact is the Brewers could be doing a lot better in the standings if they did not lose so many one-run games. The pitching and offense is to blame for that but if they can turn those one-run losses into wins during the second half, then maybe they can clinch one of the three available playoff spots.
The following are five players critical to the Brewers success in the second half of the season:
Braun has silenced the critics and backed up his much deserved MVP Award with an outstanding first half of the season. He is currently batting .306 with 56 runs, 14 doubles, two triples, 61 RBI, 15 stolen bases, and he leads the National League in home runs with 24. If Milwaukee wants to be around at the end of the season Braun will have to continue his dominate pace. If he lets up even a little bit the Brewers are in trouble.
It has taken awhile but Aramis Ramirez finally came around as the player the Brewers were expecting when they signed him. Ramirez is a historically slow starter but this season he really struggled to get out of the gate. Thankfully, the third baseman is finally providing quality protection for Braun and coming up with clutch hits. At the end of the first half of the season, he is batting .272 with 47 runs, 27 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, and 52 RBI. Ramirez will have to continue his ascent through the second half all the way to the end of the season if the Brewers want a chance to play in October.
Corey Hart is known to be a streaky hitter and this season appears to be no different. There have been moments when he has shined and there have been times when he could not buy a hit. Regardless, Hart’s production is still top amongst the team and he has certainly gotten the job done defensively at first base. However, it is essential he step up his game once the All-Star break is over because the Brewers need him to be putting up Braun-type numbers. He, along with the other players on this list, must catch fire in order to catch the Pittsburgh Pirates in the standings.
Rickie Weeks is having a historically bad season. He is currently on pace to have 90 more strikeouts than hits, which has only happened two other times in history. He is having one of the most monumental collapses ever witnessed from one year to the next. This time last season, he was an All-Star and now the Brewers have to contemplate benching him if he does not get his act together. The good news is Weeks has hit rock bottom (hopefully) and the only way to go is up. If he could somehow get his act together and play up to the standard he set for himself then the Brewers just might have a chance at a postseason berth.
I understand I said five players but if the bullpen does not start protecting leads then the Brewers are finished before the second half even starts. Too many leads have been blown and too many close games have been lost. The two pitchers who were supposed to be shutdown have combined for nine losses and nine blown saves. John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez must get their act together if Milwaukee wants to get back in the race. The rest of the bullpen follows their lead and if they continue to struggle so will everyone else. Thankfully, veteran Livan Hernandez has come in to show the pitchers how it is done, but the Brewers will need every to step up in order to stop the embarrassment.