The National League Central may be the most exciting division in baseball. The Cardinals have rebounded from a 2010 that saw the upstart Reds take the division. And the Reds were not a fluke. With Johnny Cueto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and reigning NL MVP Joey Votto, they are built to compete. Even the Pirates are dangerously close to breaking the ever elusive .500 mark. Yet the most compelling story may be the Brewers.
A team that has made the play-offs only three times in the last 30 years, the Brewers are poised to take control of the NL Central and make some noise in the play-offs. Centered around Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and the newly aquired Zach Greinke, this new Crew hast staying power.
The Brewers have already made it clear that Ryan Braun is the face of the franchise with the $105 Million contract they threw his way. While there seems to be talk every year about Prince Fielder being traded because the team can’t afford to keep him, you’d be surprised how success seems to deepen the pockets of owners. If the Brewers compete and make the play-offs, you can bet on a new contract for Fielder. And then there’s Greinke.
Zach Greinke may still be adjusting to the National League, but his time with the Royals is going to serve him well. He has the talent, that much is clear. If he can stay healthy, he is going to dominate National League hitting. The one good thing Greinke got out of playing with the Royals was pitching in the American League. Starting your career in the AL seems to translate to more success in the NL. Not because NL hitters are inferior, but because the AL has the Designated Hitter.
It may not seem like much, but over the course of 35 starts, with three at-bats per game, AL pitchers are facing a true hitter 105 times more than NL pitchers. Sure, there is the occasional slugging pitcher (Carlos Zambrano, Livan Hernandez, etc), but a “slugging pitcher” equates to a batting average hovering around the Mendoza Line and being able to put the ball in play. That’s a far cry from AL Designated Hitters putting up 30-plus home run seasons and knocking in 100 RBI’s.
At 6-1 on the season, and a little more than half the year to go, Zach Greinke’s ERA will come down, his wins will pile up, and his strike-outs will mount.
Sprinkle in the talent of Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart and this Brewers club is a beast. They have a chance this weekend to take over first place in the NL Central, and while baseball is a funny game with ups and downs, don’t be surprised if they don’t relinquish that spot the rest of the year.
The fans deserve a competitor and now they finally have one. And great fans they are. I’ve had the privilege of attending a Brewers game, and these are some of the best fans in baseball. Over-shadowed by their neighbors to the south in Chicago, the Brewers fans are just as passionate, just as vocal, and just as excited to see their team play game in and game out.
So Brewers fans, sit back, relax, and crack open a Brew. The Crew is good!