The Brewers have been red hot all month long, while the Arizona Diamondbacks have failed to live up to expectations. This early in the season it is worth remembering that small sample sizes can be meaningless, but I believe each of these teams has shown where they will end up come October.
Milwaukee is an impressive 18-7, good enough for the best record in the league. A nine-game winning streak has helped them take a four-and-a-half game lead over the reigning NL champion Cardinals. The division winners in 2011 took some steps back words when Prince Fielder left in free agency, and have missed out on playing meaningful October baseball since then. Last year, three of their four division opponents made the playoffs. In 2014, with the Cubs out of the picture and the Pirates and Reds appearing mediocre at best, the Brew Crew can manage to reach the postseason again.
The Brewers are not by any means lacking the talent to do so. Last year, Carlos Gomez quietly led the Majors in Wins Above Replacement with an MVP-level 8.9 WAR. The speedster is again having a productive season while adding some more power. His current numbers project him to have another All-Star season, as long as he does not get any more suspensions (for fighting). Speaking of suspensions, a large contributor to Milwaukee’s success has been Ryan Braun. The best Brewer since Robin Yount missed the final 65 games of the 2013 season because of the Biogenesis scandal and uncovering of his PED use. The 30 year old slugger is back in prime form, compiling numbers he has not reached since his MVP season of 2011. It seems that his admittance of guilt allowed him to get it off his chest and recharge for the Brewers run for this season.
In the infield, Aramis Ramirez continues to rake it, even in his advanced age, and Jean Segura and Scooter Gennet form a solid up the middle combination both defensively and offensively. If the weak, strikeout heavy platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay at first base can be replaced, the Brewers offense will carry them to a first place finish.
The pitching has also been key to the Brewers early start. Yovani Gallardo has come into his own and can finally be titled “ace of the rotation.” His 2-0 record does not show his brilliance, but a 1.42 ERA and a low batting average are more indicative of his capabilities. At the other end of the spectrum, Francisco Rodriguez is closing out games with more ease than when he broke the single season saves record. He is a perfect 11 for 11 in save situations and has only allowed eight base runners in 14 innings pitched.
Arizona has fared much worse in the early part of the season. It played the first two games of the season in Australia against the Dodgers, and in their usual fashion lost the pair. Los Angeles, even with its stagnant start, beat the D-backs in seven out of eight matches. Arizona’s total record is a Major League worst (yes, worse than the Cubs, Astros and Marlins) 8-20. With Paul Goldschmidt and new addition Mark Trumbo, they have plenty of power in the middle of their order, but it is not enough to supply all of the Diamondback’s offense. Starters and bench players alike are struggling to reach base, and it is a problem not likely to turn around soon.
The pitching rotation has not been any better. Free agent pickup Bronson Arroyo has been horrendous with his 7.77 ERA. Randall Delgado, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy have all struggled while combining for a 1-11 record(McCarthy is 0-5). Wade Miley has been the best starter, and he is pitching more like a fifth starter with his 2-2 record and 4.50 ERA.
The season is long and has basically just started, but I predict that the Brewers will remain relevant and make the playoffs and the Diamondbacks will continue struggling and finish in the cellar.