By Michael Terrill @MichaelTerrill on May 12, 2014
Through the first 38 games of the 2014 MLB season, the Milwaukee Brewers remain tied for the best record in the National League. More importantly, they’re sitting atop the NL Central division as the only team above .500. The season is nearly a quarter of the way over and Milwaukee is in a position that no so-called “baseball expert” said they would be in. Here’s a ranking of the 15 players that got the Brewers to where they currently are.
It might be crazy to have a player who has only appeared in nine games make the top 15. However, catcher Martin Maldonado has done everything the Brewers have asked of him and has excelled at it. He has come through with big hits at the plate, thrown out the only base stealer he saw, and even pitched one nearly flawless inning when the Brewers desperately needed the relief.
Don’t mind the two blown saves Zach Duke has recorded this season because the reliever has done everything else to near perfection. The left-hander is 3-0 and only given up three earned runs in 17 1/3 innings. When Milwaukee needs to get a left-handed bat out, Duke comes through more often than not.
The starting rotation has been stellar for the Brewers in 2014, and Marco Estrada is one of the reasons for the success. He has faltered at times on the mound, just like any other pitcher, but he has performed his duty exceptionally well for the most part.
Tyler Thornburg has begun to struggle as of late, but overall, the right-hander has really impressed out of the bullpen this season. Even though the Brewers believe he can be a starting pitcher one day, he’s showing that he’s willing to succeed no matter what role the team puts him in.
Scooter Gennett is technically in a platoon with Rickie Weeks at second base. However, he has played so well this season that Weeks hardly sees the field. Gennett has done a terrific job of getting on base in front of the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, but what has been even more impressive is his defensive play.
Mark Reynolds has been a pleasant surprise for the Brewers. The first baseman, who was offered a minor-league contract in the offseason, has done exactly what the organization brought him in for and then some. Reynolds has hit eight home runs and driven in runs when given the opportunity. The most surprising part of his performance is his outstanding play on defense at a position he doesn’t normally play (he has nearly triple the innings at third
The Brewers made it known that they expected big things out of Wily Peralta this year. The best part is the right-hander has not disappointed. Peralta is arguably the best No. 5 starter in baseball as he is 4-2 with an impressive 2.17 ERA and 35 strikeouts in seven starts.
Many fans were upset when Milwaukee traded outfielder Norichika Aoki to the Kansas City Royals this past offseason. However, Will Smith, who is the pitcher the Brewers got in return, is making general manager Doug Melvin look like a very intelligent man. The left-hander is having a career year out of the bullpen as evidence of his 0.52 ERA in 20 appearances.
Aramis Ramirez may be slumping right now, and heading to the disabled list, but the cleanup hitter got off to a scorching hot start that bailed the Brewers out of many games. For the most part, Ramirez has done exactly what was needed on offense to give Milwaukee a fighting chance to pull out a victory, which is exactly what the team likes to see from the No. 4 hitter.
Jonathan Lucroy is turning into one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. If anything else, he’s definitely the most underrated. Lucroy is batting .304 with two home runs, 13 RBI and leads the team with 12 doubles. It seems that whenever the Brewers need to come up with a big hit it’s Lucroy who is delivering it. On top of that, he’s done a great job of instilling confidence in the pitching staff.
Yovani Gallardo really needed to bounce back after a disappointing 2013 season. The good news is he’s done exactly that. Sure, there have been times when he could have pitched better. However, Gallardo continues to excel in the role of the ace, which is exactly what Milwaukee needs from him. The pitching staff feed off of each other’s production, and Gallardo has set the standard since Opening Day.
Kyle Lohse continues to make Brewers look smart for signing him to a three-year contract prior to the start of the 2013 season. Lohse understands how good Milwaukee is this year, which is one of the reasons why he consistently gives the team a fighting chance every time he steps onto the mound. Lohse is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.
Some were unsure how Ryan Braun would be able to handle the pressure that would accompany his 2014 season after being suspended for half of the season last year. To no one’s surprise, the slugger has handled it very well. Even though he’s dealing with injuries, he’s still batting .318 with six home runs and 18 RBI.
Francisco Rodriguez has been sensational so far this season. There’s no question the Brewers would not be 10 games above .500 without him closing out games. Since Opening Day, K-Rod has surpassed expectations and filled the role he was destined to play brilliantly. He made 19 straight appearances without giving up a run and 15 consecutive saves without blowing one. As long as he continues to be lights out, the Brew will remain a dangerous team.
The best player for the Brewers through the first 38 games is Carlos Gomez. He leads the team in homers (nine), RBI (21) and stolen bases (six). He comes up with big hits every time he steps up to the plate, and his defense continues to be Gold-Glove worthy. More importantly, the energy he brings to the team is clearly a big reason why Milwaukee is enjoying so much success this year.
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