We’re now into the first week of September, and the Brewers have yet to break the top-20 mold this year in ESPN’s Power Rankings. They come into this week’s list at No. 24, two spots lower than their spot last week. You’d like to see them crack that barrier of top-20 teams, but the task seems to be getting tougher and tougher each week.
I mean, it’s not as if they’ve been playing bad either. They’re (currently, as I’m typing this) on a 4-game win streak and are holding a 1-0 lead on the Cubs (we’ll see how long that lasts). However, while we might think they are deserving to be ranked higher, the national media might not be seeing a similar picture. But that part doesn’t really matter.
What matters is how well the starting pitching has been. You can’t ask for much better performances. This is arguably the best stretch of the year up to date for Milwaukee’s arms and everyone is contributing. You have Matt Garza looking like he’s turned back the clock and is donning a Rays jersey. You have Junior Guerra making a strong “start” (thanks to his pitch count) off the DL. You have Wily Peralta raking up 10 strikeouts against the Cardinals. Chase Anderson, who has been straight awful this season, has been patching things together, including yesterday’s five scoreless innings against Pittsburgh.
Though they are officially out of contention for claiming the National League Central Division crown (woo, we still have a chance at the Wild Card!), these games serve vital importance for the Brewers. Let me say this. I’m not one of those guys who clamors for the team to lose games at the end of the year. I hate that. The only time I may do that is in a complete different sport and the Bucks are fighting for a better standing in the Draft lottery (For the record, I was pro-tanking when it came to getting Jabari).
But this is baseball. The draft process is completely different. The MLB is the toughest sport for a prospect to reach the professional level, meaning there’s much more risk with each pick. So why weigh that risk more valuable than developing young players and putting the feeling of victory under their belt? Sweeping the Pirates, a team vying for a playoff bid, does not come and go without leaving any positive psychological benefits.
It’s definitely a big if, but if the starting pitching ends the season on a high note, it’ll make it interesting in regards to the start of the 2017 year. For example, look at Zach Davies. These games are extremely vital to him right now. After allowing seven runs in an outing against the Cubs back on August 18th, the right hander has rebounded by etching in two consecutive respectable starts, allowing only four combined runs in those two games. He also registered 17 strikeouts. If he continues to progress and keep his performances extrapolating, he may very well be on the fast track toward earning the 2017 Opening Day job. This part of the year is crucial in regards to laying the frame work for him and others to reach their full potential down the road.
So even while these games may seem useless for the Crew since there’s no chance of winning anything, they could very well be labeled as the most important ones. It all circles back to the overall theme that’s been being drummed all year — development.