The Brewers are off to their best start since 1987

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Get a load of this Brew Crew.

Behind seven strong innings from right-hander Wily Peralta and home runs from Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds, the Brewers topped the Pirates 4-2 last night at Miller Park in Milwaukee. They have now won seven straight games and sit at 8-2 on the young season, giving them the best record in the majors. This is their best start since they began the 1987 season at 13-0.

The Brewers have simply been hitting on all cylinders thus far. While they have the third-fewest walks in the majors, they rank third in batting average and slugging percentage and fifth in OPS thanks to hot starts from the likes of Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy. The pitching has been even better, putting up a major league best 1.86 ERA. Their starters have gone at least six innings in seven out of 10 games, with Yovani Gallardo showing signs of a rebound with 12 2/3 scoreless innings to begin the year. Their relievers, highlighted by the trio of Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, and Tyler Thornburg, have allowed just four runs in 29 2/3 innings for a 0.91 ERA.

There are obviously reasons to be skeptical here, especially with the questions surrounding Ryan Braun’s thumb and the injury histories of Ramirez and Matt Garza, but this team could surprise if things break right. The Cardinals deserve to be considered the favorites in the National League Central, but the Wild Card race has the potential to be wide open this year.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉