Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club
Rodriguez and the other relievers have been jaw-dropping.
If you're a casual fan, you may very well be taking your sweet time to get into baseball season. After all, it's one of the few things that last even longer than a Wisconsin winter, so you're completely reasonable not to pay the first bit of attention until Memorial Day or July 4th.
That's too bad, then, because you might not have noticed that the Milwaukee Brewers played the best baseball in either league for most of April, thanks to a pitching staff whose performance has ranged from impressive to jaw-dropping.
Including Monday's win at St. Louis, Milwaukee had allowed four runs or fewer in all but five of its 26 games. The team's 21 quality starts were the most in baseball. Four of the Brewers' five starting pitchers currently boast earned-run averages south of 3.00. Those numbers can't possibly last, but even for just a month of baseball, they're awfully good.
As well as the starters have pitched, the relief staff has been even better. The Brewers' top three relievers -- Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg -- have combined to allow one earned run in 39 innings, which is simply stupid.
The offense has been merely adequate by comparison. Ryan Braun is the center of attention, as always, and has looked like his old MVP self so far. The problem is that he's collecting injuries left and right, both for himself and his teammates.
Last Saturday, Braun strained his rib muscles during batting practice, then carelessly brained shortstop Jean Segura with a bat in the first inning while limbering up in the dugout. While neither injury is considered serious, Braun is already fighting a chronically painful right thumb, which on bad days essentially forces him to swing one-handed. That thumb bears watching -- without Braun, the Brewers' lineup becomes far easier to face, and the pitching is bound to return to Earth at some point.