This was definitely one of the Brewers better weeks, and it showed in the box scores. The Crew went 5-1 over the span of the last week, and that one blemish could have very easily been another victory. Bullpen relief was a major key for the Brewers, and I wrote that to ESPN in this week’s Power Rankings as Milwaukee moved up to No. 25:
Milwaukee went on a small hot streak where they won four consecutive games, thanks in large part to their dependable bullpen (2.88 ERA in the last seven days through Saturday). — Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3), Disciples of Uecker
So yes, let’s discuss that bullpen. One-run ballgames have been Milwaukee’s arch nemesis all year long. I’ve already lost count as to how many one run affairs have been lost. Despite it being against the lowly Atlanta Braves, it was nice to be on the greener side of the grass and scrape out some of our own one-run wins.
Michael Blazek began the strong week for the relievers with a scoreless 7th inning (I’ll discuss his collapse against Cincinnati in a bit). Tyler Thornburg and Jeremy Jeffress then followed suit.
Success was ushered in during the next game against the Braves (outside of the Capuano HR to Beckham). Blaine Boyer, Tyler Thornburg, Jeremy Jeffress, Michael Blazek and Carlos Torres all posted goose eggs in the 13-inning contest. I like to look at the extra inning games to see just how consistent the Brewers’ bullpen can be at times. While the offense sputters, they keep on making sure to give the bats another chance by posting scoreless outings. It hasn’t gone unnoticed and I’m happy for that.
Decisions are about to be made with the return of Will Smith and others on the horizon and some of them may be tough. The one player I hope remains is Carlos Torres (0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched). A sense of versatility always serves vital importance in any MLB bullpen and Torres has shown that this season. He’s even shown some near career high stats in some categories (1.405 WHIP, 7.5 H/9, 8.5 SO/9 and 1.67 SO/W). He’s relished in nearly every opportunity Craig Counsell has provided him and that should be rewarded.
Now then, back to Michael Blazek against the Reds. For the life of me, I have no single explanation that could prove why Counsell left him in. It was obvious the Reds hitters were locked in and something bad was brewing, yet Counsell seemed to remain oblivious. Jhan Mariñez came in and provided 1.1 innings of scoreless relief with two strikeouts, making one scratch their head as to why he wasn’t initially put in. Speaking of Mariñez, what a job he’s done since being acquired by David Stearns. In five innings pitched so far with Milwaukee, he’s only allowed one hit and has struck out nine batters.
The one important piece of information I would’ve loved to provide to ESPN in my comments but unfortunately was unable to due to 60 word limits was the spectacular play of Jonathan Villar. I wrote about Villar’s recent success in a post a few days ago and since then, he has not missed a beat in producing. He has now reached base safely in 43 of his last 48 appearances, rising his OBP to a tick below .400 at .397. Also, don’t look now, but…
Jonathan Villar has a 124 wRC+, which ranks first among NL shortstops. #Brewers
— J.P. Breen (@JP_Breen) May 29, 2016
Villar has definitely made his case as to why he’s not a player here just for the rebuild stages. There’s a place for him roster for when the Brewers hopefully contend, whether that may be at 3B or 2B.
Another fantastic point to think about Villar’s strong play of late? It buys time for Orlando Arcia down at Triple-A. Now, I know some of you want to call up Arcia right now and won’t take no for a reason, but David Stearns has always been one that preaches development and receiving the proper amount of at-bats at each level. As of now, Arcia has had roughly just two months worth of time facing Triple-A pitching. That may be enough in a scenario where a hole in the position exists at the MLB level, but that’s not the case here with the way Villar’s been playing. If Villar keeps getting on base left and right, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arcia was a late August/early September call-up.
Summing up the success as of late, I basically have two things that I see important for fans to realize.
- This team is better than many pundits think.
- Keep in mind, the series wins were against the Braves and Reds.
I know that’s a little contradictory as to how I’m preaching these wins, but it’s vital to remember. But still, ask baseball experts across the board how many less wins the Brewers have than the Cardinals without looking and I bet they’ll get it wrong (Spoiler: It’s only three). Let’s hope they have one more following the conclusion of this series.