The Brewers certainly have a chance to make the playoffs this year. Obviously there are many factors that can play a part in a team making or missing the playoffs, but I believe that these are the most important for the Brewers this year.
Health: Last year’s catastrophe of a season was due in a lot of reasons to injuries (and suspensions but hopefully those won’t be a factor this year.) Even before he was suspended for his part in the Biogenesis scandal Braun was hampered by a thumb injury last year. Unfortunately that injury continues to bother him this year and has already caused him some pain (his thumb is numb so he doesn’t know how hard he is gripping the baseball and as a result develops blisters.) Although he is no longer with the team, last year Corey Hart’s injury was also a major blow to the team as he was one of the better players on last year’s squad.
This year, at least so far, the injury situation is looking a lot better. With the exception of Braun (which admittedly could end up being huge and it has appeared to effect his play this season, but hopefully he’ll be able to deal with it as the season progresses) the team has been pretty healthy. Jean Segura’s shoulder injury isn’t as bad as it was first reported it was going to be, and he was able to start the season. Outside of Segura, Braun is really the only question mark with injury problems right now, and if that can stay true for the entire season the Brewers will be in good shape.
High level pitching: The Milwaukee Brewers have had a pretty good start to their 2014 campaign. Although they went 1-2 in the opening series against the Braves they bounced back with a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway. Throughout both those series the pitching staff performed incredibly well. Yovani Gallardo still hasn’t allowed a run in his two starts and through the first rotation the Brewers pitching staff had a combined ERA of 1.45. Whether this was due to the hitters not quite being ready for the season, or the skill of Milwaukee’s pitching staff remains to be seen but either way the pitching has been great so far.
If the Brewers want to get anywhere near the playoffs this kind of pitching needs to keep up. Young pitchers like Tyler Thornburg and Brandon Kintzler have been nasty so far, but that’s no guarantee that they will continue to be good throughout the entire 2014 season.
There also appears to be somewhat of a controversy at closer. Although it was basically assumed that Jim Henderson was going to be the closer from day one, Francisco Rodriguez and Thornburg have both been used in late game lead situations so far. In fact, Henderson has only pitched .1 innings so far this year.
Really good teams can be doomed by a bad closer, Brewers fans saw what happened when Axford started to melt down in 2012. No matter how good the rest of the team is, closing ball games out is crucial and if there truly is an issue at that position in Milwaukee right now the Brewers 2014 playoff chances may be over already.
The number of errors has to go down: So far the Brewers offense has not been up to par. I’m inclined to over look that fact for a few reasons: One, the season just started and no offense looks good right now, and two, because was actually pretty good in the series at Boston. However, one aspect of the game that the Brewers haven’t been good at so far this season is fielding.
Jean Segura alone had one error and a few questionable defensive plays in Saturday’s win against Boston, and the team as a whole has looked incredibly shaky early. Defense often gets over looked in baseball, but if the Brewers are consistently giving up runs due to errors close wins will start becoming close losses. In a division with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds the Brewers cannot give away games because of defensive proficiency.
With that said, if the Brewers are able to tune their defensive problems they have a solid shot at the Playoffs this year. The pitching staff is dealing, and the only real thing that can stop the Brewers from seeing their full potential is defensive problems, and if those don’t exist you may very well see the Brew Crew in October.