Thursday, April 14, 2011

Production Without Main Pieces

When the Milwaukee Brewers broke camp just two weeks ago, they were without some very big members of their club. Starting the year on the disabled list were newly acquired ace Zack Greinke, the power hitting right fielder Corey Hart and starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The goal for many was to simply keep the boat afloat until those clogs returned. That proved pretty tough in the beginning.

The Brewers started their season in Cincinnati, getting swept in the process by the Reds. After an opening day loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Brewers then found themselves 0-4 and having many questions to answer. Was this team really capable of making a run at the division? Was the bullpen really improved? Could they be okay for the time being until their weapons returned?

What this team has over the past eight games in answer all those questions with a resounding yes.

In an offensive where Carlos Gomez, Yuniesky Bentancourt, Erick Almonte and Mark Kotsay receive regular playing time, a lot of responsibility falls squarely on the backs of the pitching staff. That pitching staff has taken that responsibility and ran with it. Over the past eight games, Brewers pitchers have thrown a combined 72 innings. Of those 72, 52.2 innings have come from Brewers staring pitching. That's an average start of just under 6.2 innings per start.

If there is one thing that has troubled the Brewers over the past couple of seasons, it has been inconsistent pitching that has led to the bullpen picking up too many innings. Sure the Brewers starters struggled last season, but them wearing out the bullpen had just as much to do with the 26th ranked 'pen in baseball as those relievers did. The formula for success is simple. Good starting pitching leads to good relief pitching. If the Brewers are able to pitch deep into games, they have plenty of arms down in the bullpen who are talented enough to get batters out. Over the past eight games, that is why the Brewers are winning. Here are their numbers respectively.

Brewers Starters: 6-1, 52.2 IP, 2.22 ERA, 40 K, 14 BB

Brewers Bullpen: 1-0, 19.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 14 K, 9 BB

That's equates to a very impressive team ERA of 2.00 over that eight game stretch. With no coincidence, the Brewers are 7-1 in that same span and have climbed two games above .500.

What's even more encouraging is where this team could go. Keep in mind, this is all without the Brewers best starting pitcher, starting right fielder and best catcher (played just last two games). When Greinke returns, the Brewers, in my opinion, will have the second best rotation in baseball. When Hart returns, he takes the place of a platoon, Kotsay and Almonte, currently hitting .152/.222/.273/.495.

These are all very good signs to see out of a ballclub who was just looking to tread water until their big guns came back. If there pitching staff is able to pitch anywhere near there until then, treading water should be no problem. In fact, playing winning baseball should be the new goal.

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