I was going to write on Friday about the importance of showing up in St. Louis this past weekend ready to stand tall against the St. Louis Cardinals. The teams have played almost dead even in head-to-head competition the past several years but the taste of the playoff loss to end 2011 and the opening weekend of 2012 where the Cardinals spoiled the home opener and took two of three from the Brewers has many wondering if Milwaukee is truly a contender or not.
Kind of glad I didn’t because I was going to predict a great outing from Yovanni Gallardo and a weekend of pounding out runs and letting loose of some of the frustrations from the recent losses. I would have been so wrong.
Zach Greinke’s outing yesterday combined with the monster double by Jonathan Lucroy allowed the team to steal one and salvage an otherwise lost weekend. Yo was his usual self against St. Louis and despite a decent outing by Marco Estrada on Saturday the team couldn’t score and the bullpen was tagged hard.
The Cardinals threatened in the ninth Sunday and had John Axford not come up so big once again the team could have been heading west six games back and not feeling very good about themselves.
The team is sitting at 10–12 and their pitching staff carries the third worst ERA in the Major Leagues at 5.22. They are in the middle of the pack in runs scored despite hitting the most HRs of any National League team so far in 2012. As a team they are hitting just .237 which places them 24th in the majors.
When you start to think about some of those numbers you wonder how they are even hanging around .500 and you wouldn’t just be acting negative if you were doubtful of this team’s ability to make a serious run this season.
But do you remember how you felt last season as April came to a close? The team was 13-14 and had an ERA of almost 4.5. Greinke was hurt playing basketball, the bullpen was in shambles and the offense was struggling.
In 2008 through the end of April the team had an ERA of almost 5 and despite a 16–12 record sat in third place like they do this year. Of course both of those seasons turned out just fine so being behind on May 1st is not a death sentence.
In fact, last year three of the teams that eventually made the playoffs were in very similar positions. Detroit was sitting at 12–16, 7 ½ games behind the Cleveland Indians. The Arizona Diamondbacks were 12–15 and lagged 5 ½ games behind the Colorado Rockies. Along with the Brewers these teams turned the deficits into division championships.
In 2010 both Texas and Cincinnati turned .500 records on May 1st into division crowns while 2009 saw the Yankees, Twins and Phillies all hovering around .500 to close out April yet win their division. The Angels were 9–13 that same season but found their way to the title.
The team will close out April tonight in San Diego as they embark on a six-game West Coast swing that exposes the Brewers to a softer schedule than the one they have faced so far. The Padres have the worst record in the National League and the Brewers could even their road trip by taking 2 of 3 there before heading to San Francisco where they will face the 12–10 Giants.
The team has plenty of company this season as they try to turn a sluggish start into a race for the pennant. Philadelphia sits at 10–12 just like the Brewers despite what most regard as the best pitching staff in the game. Miami moved into their new ballpark and added some great free agents but sit at 8–13. Arizona is 11–11.
In the American League the mighty Tigers led by Prince Fielder and last year’s Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander are also 11–11 and Boston is just 10-11.
The poster team for slow starts however has to be the Angels. They added CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols to an already solid team by spending wildly in the off season. They head to May with a 7–15 record and are 9 full games behind the powerful Rangers. Pujols is hitting below .250 and doesn’t have a homer. You think the Angels were hoping for more out of their $24 million a year investment?
Bottom line: April has been a disappointment and the team is lucky to not be even worse off but recent history shows teams can overcome the slow start and still find their way to glory.