The Milwaukee Brewers currently sit four games under .500 and have four Opening Day starters on the disabled list with potentially three season-ending injuries, depending on the MRI results on the knee of Alex Gonzalez on Monday.
Tensions are high amongst the Brewers faithful. Some have declared this season a lost cause. Some have suggested that Ron Roenicke is not the man for the job. Some are cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the year, but would like to see some improved play to justify their loyalty.
Last year felt like this too. Through 28 games in 2011, the Brewers were 13-15 and would ultimately fall to 13-19 before getting on a prolonged hot streak throughout the remainder of the season and finishing 30 games above .500. Clearly, the 2011 season taught us that the first month or two does not necessarily reflect the overall talent on a ballclub. The 2012 Brewers are not guaranteed to finish the season below the .500 mark simply because they currently sit underwater.
The optimist inside of me grasps onto this fact and cautiously awaits the improved stretch of play that we all know will come eventually. The pragmatist inside of me, however, understands that the context surrounding the two poor starts are not similar.
In 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers scuffled through the first month and a half of the season. They did so, however, with Zack Greinke on the disabled list with a broken rib and Corey Hart shaking off the rust after missing all of spring training and the first portion of the season with an oblique strain. The Brewers were playing shorthanded throughout April and were just getting to full strength in May, which is unsurprisingly the time the team started to turn around their performance.
In 2012, the Brewers started the season at full strength and have systematically seen their everyday players land on the disabled list with significant injuries. This squad did not struggle at half-strength and is now reloading for the stretch run. Instead, this Brewers team dug themselves into a hole while largely healthy and now need to climb back out with a shorthanded roster that now features the frightening duo of Cesar Izturis and Edwin Maysonet at shortstop and some combination of Brooks Conrad, Taylor Green, and Travis Ishikawa at first base. Marco Estrada is back in the starting rotation — this time it appears for good — and Wily Peralta has rediscovered his command issues down in Triple-A Nashville.
The Brewers certainly have the capability of climbing out of this early hole and competing for back-to-back NL Central pennants. A solid core has been untouched by the injury bug. The elite players that were expected to carry this team still play everyday. To equate last season to this season, though, is extremely convenient and does not tell the whole story. Last season should serve as example of why Brewers fans should not panic, not as a guarantee that the season will necessarily improve.