There has been a ton of well-deserved buzz about the Milwaukee Brewers thanks to their nine-game winning streak and MLB-best 10-2 record. Yet many of the Crew’s faithful and some experts have tempered their enthusiasm because of April 2013.
Have no fear Brewers fans; this year’s string of great play has been more dominant, efficient and conducive to year-long success. In other words, start enjoying the ride right now (even if they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals).
Last season, Milwaukee also rattled off nine consecutive victories, but it translated into a disappointing 74-88 finish. Of course, that win streak merely got them to 11-8 on the season after an ugly 2-8 start. Then May happened (6-22) and the season was over.
This year’s streak has a much different feel, and the sustainability of their current performance over the long haul is prevalent in the statistics.
It all starts with the pitching, where the 2014 staff has been brilliant. The 2013 group was solid during their nine-game stretch but nothing like the current version.
During this year’s run, the Brewers have a 1.73 ERA with opponents hitting just .205 against them. Those are filthy numbers. Compare that to 2013 where they owned a 2.85 ERA and a .237 BAA. The disparity of more than a full run and over 30 points in batting average is huge.
The numbers are much more dominating for this season’s nine-gamer.
And it’s not because luck is on the 2014 squad’s side. The current staff has a 3.46 strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) rate, meaning they’re keeping runners off the bases and limiting factors such as poor defense and bad luck. The 2013 club was only working with a 2.62 K/BB, lowering their margin for error.
The higher number of strikeouts also becomes huge in certain situations, such as pitching with a runner on third and less than two outs. This year’s club is striking out one hitter per inning, allowing them to wiggle out of trouble without damage. The 2013 group was well under one whiff per frame and couldn’t rely on the big strikeout to get out of a jam. That caught up with them later.
Then there’s the matter of giving up extra-base hits. Again, the 2014 hurlers have a sizable edge on the 2013 guys during their respective streaks. This year, teams are slugging a lowly .296, while last season the enemy sat nearly 50 points higher with a .344 slugging percentage.
Add all this to the fact that six of the Brewers’ nine wins this season came on the road, including a three-game sweep at Fenway Park where the Boston Red Sox hadn’t lost three in a row all year in 2013, and this streak should mean something. Last year, Milwaukee won six of their nine at home.
No one believes the staff will continue to deal at an ERA around 2.00 or hold opponents under a .300 slugging percentage, but don’t doubt the legitimacy of this team.
Last season’s nine-game jolt was only a hot streak, aided by some smoke and mirrors, good matchups and a touch of luck. The way in which the 2014 pitching staff has dominated hitters tells a far greater story and one that says they can continue playing at a high level all season. And I didn’t even touch on the offense, which also has far better numbers than the 2013 club. In a nutshell, this year’s offense owns an .826 OPS during the streak. The 2013 team was only at .775 over that span.
Far better pitching plus a stronger offense — and even better defense without Juan Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt and Rickie Weeks (most of the time) — and you can see how this year’s team truly is a contender.
Yes, it’s early. Yes, health will be extremely important. However, you should celebrate every win you can get, because the more victories you earn in April and May, the less you need to grind out in August and September.
So go ahead and soak it all in, Milwaukee!