The perfectly brewed beer requires just the right mix of ingredients. You need a good amount of malted barley intermixed with just the right dosage of hot water to make a good mash. Once the mash has been created and boiled, a brew master then adds a dash or so of hops, depending on how bitter you like your beer, in order to add some delicious flavor and scent to the finished product. Finally, the brewer will add some yeast in order to begin the fermentation process, which adds alcohol to the process. If everything works out properly, the end result is a batch of cold delicious beer for anyone and everyone to enjoy, preferably while catching the home nine take the field.
This year’s edition of the Milwaukee Brewers is starting to come together like a well-brewed batch of beer. You have your mash, coming in the forms of Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, who slug the ball to all fields and form the base of Milwaukee’s well-balanced attack. Next come the hops, taking the form of Norichika Aoki, a free agent pickup from the Nippon Pro League who’s steady ability to get on-base has been crucial. A little dash of Rickie Weeks was added in the 2nd half to provide more flavor. The pitching staff has come together as a new group of young Brewers starters have been given a chance to ferment together at the big league level. With brew master Ron Roenicke at the helm, this delicious mix of ingredients is starting to come together just in the nick of time to give the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team a shot at making a repeat appearance in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting story lines floating around Milwaukee these days.
The phenomenal Ryan Braun
If we’re going to talk about the Brewers, the most appropriate place to start would be with Ryan Braun, who’s bidding to win the 2nd MVP award of his career. Earlier this week I discussed the tear Braun has been on recently and the dilemma his candidacy presents for voters. But the numbers? Well they speak for themselves. He’s hitting .315/.390/.599 with 40 homers and 107 RBI. He ranks first in the National League in slugging, OPS, total bases, WAR, and homers while also ranking in the top 5 in batting average, RBI, OPS+, hits, and runs scored. Braun also provides some solid speed as well, bagging 29 bases in 36 attempts this year. He’s the key cog in the middle of the Milwaukee lineup, the one hitter who makes all of the gears turn.
The resurgent Rickie Weeks
Throughout most of the first half of the season, Brewers’ 2nd baseman Rickie Weeks was hitting below the Mendoza line (sub-.200), while striking out once every 3.5 plate appearances. His second half has been much, much better as Weeks has regained his power stroke and his ability to get on base, batting .266/.351/.480 while bombing 12 homers and 32, both of which are better than his first half total. Weeks has been particularly hot over the last 25 games, hitting .306 with 7 homers, 16 RBI, and 7 steals. He’s another big reason the Brewers have seized the title of highest scoring offense in the National League.
The return of Jonathan Lucroy
Lucroy fell victim to one of the strangest injuries of the season this year, breaking his hand in a suitcase while searching for a sock for his wife. Lucroy missed all of June and most of July while Milwaukee struggled to stay within shouting distance of the playoff race. Lucroy’s play since his return has ranged from above average to excellent as he’s hit .303/.360/.441 with 5 homers and 23 RBI. If it weren’t for the ridiculous seasons being posted by Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, Mr. Lucroy would be getting quite a bit of attention for his play.
The versatile play of Norichika Aoki
The 30-year-old rookie from Japan has been a constant sparkplug in the Milwaukee lineup this season, doing whatever manager Ron Roenicke has asked. He’s excellent at laying down bunts, running the bases, fielding, throwing, and driving the ball into the gap. Aoki, much like Lucroy, hasn’t received much publicity for his play this season, but he should solidly finish near the top of the National League’s Rookie of the Year vote for his .293/.361/.439 slash with 9 homers, 34 doubles, and 28 steals.
The dominant Yovani Gallardo
The ace of the Brewers staff has really stepped up his play since the Zach Greinke trade, going 8-0 in starts with a 2.69 ERA. He’s dominated batters, striking out 66 in 67 total innings in that span, and his 9 wins since the All-Star break are the most in baseball. Gallardo won’t win the Cy Young award this year, but he’s put himself in a nice position for some bottom of the ballot votes. If Gallardo can continue to pitch lights out over the final two weeks of the season the Brewers have an excellent chance of catching the Cardinals. If that happens the staff ace would have to be the pitcher tabbed by Milwaukee to start any potential tie-breaker/Wild Card games.
The discovery of Mike Fiers
Fiers isn’t much of a hard-thrower, but boy does he know how to get batters out. The 27-year-old rookie has been a diamond in the rough for Milwaukee, going 9-8 with a 3.38 ERA, while striking out 9 batters per 9 innings. He’s been roughed up a little bit lately, but he’s already thrown 117 valuable innings this season that have been absolutely crucial.
There have been others who have made enormous contributions to Milwaukee’s delicious brew this season as well. Aramis Ramirez has been an offensive force at 3rd base, hitting .298 with 25 homers and 97 RBI. Corey Hart has filled in nicely as a power source at 1st base for Prince Fielder, hitting 27 dingers this season. Youngsters Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers have made a combined 11 starts and each has a sub-4.00 ERA, providing the pitching staff with not just depth but quality depth. Led by manager Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee may have something special brewing for this October.