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Photo Credit: © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Strange Brew

Did you know that the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the National league Central? What?!

Tuesday at 7:40 ET

Jimmy Nelson was last season’s walk and hit by pitch leader in the Nation league, but so far through eight starts in 2017, Nelson has massively cut down on his command issues. As a result, he’s having far and away the best season of his career. Nelson is using his sinker with less frequency and has replaced it with increased fastball usage, which has resulted in him throwing more strikes. He’s still walking three batters per nine innings, which isn’t ideal, but it’s an improvement on the 4.3 per nine he handed a free pass to in 2016.

Joe Biagini’s career as a starter was going swimmingly until he got lit up in Atlanta. Through his first nine innings as a starter, Biagini didn’t allow an earned run, but in Atlanta, he allowed six without recording an out. He settled down after that, pitching four innings without giving anything else up, but it was certainly a sobering moment for all of us who were fully aboard the Biagini starter bandwagon. The major issue, it seemed, for Biagini was staying composed after making a throwing error on a possible double play. Once he settled down, he was fine, so I don’t think Atlanta’s onslaught is an indication that Biagini has been figured out, or anything.

Wednesday at 1:10 ET

After starting the season on the disabled list, Matt Garza has come back firing. Over his past three starts, Garza has just four runs over 19 innings, which has been a massive boost to the Brewers’ rotation. In the past, Garza was a strikeout guy, but this year he seems to be evolving into more of a pitch-to-contact type, as his strikeouts are down, but so are his walks and hits. He’s using his slider with more frequency, interestingly enough, because you’d assume that when a pitcher begins to throw the slider more, it’s to get more whiffs. But with Garza, that hasn’t been the case. Regardless, it’s working for him.

Marcus Stroman will go for the Blue Jays on Wednesday, which is a great thing. That’s right. Stroman at bats. Hell yeah. Last week, Stroman took Julio Teheran deep, giving us one of the best moments in what has largely been a frustrating and disappointing season. Stroman has been great with the bat, but he’s also pitched to incredible success as of late. A few weeks ago, he got lit up in New York and was forced to leave with an injury. Since then? He’s allowed just two runs over 17 2/3 innings, striking out 16 and walking just five. 2017 truly has been the Marcus Stroman Breakout Tour.

Thoughts…

The Brewers were supposed to be bad this season, but they’ve actually played quite well. They currently own a 23-18 record and sit in first place in the National League Central. They’re pounding the ball, scoring the third-most runs per game in baseball (5.30), and their pitching, with a lot of room for error, has been thoroughly solid.

A big key to Milwaukee’s offence, of course, has been Eric Thames, who may or may not play in this series due to a leg cramp. The Brewers have also gotten offence from other strange sources, as Eric Sogard, a career replacement-level infielder without much of a bat, is inexplicably hitting .500 with two home runs through his first eight games this season.

On paper, they don’t seem very good at all. I mean, I don’t think the Brewers expected to see any success this season. But here we are. It’s early, of course, but this isn’t just going to be an automatic two wins like we figured when the Brewers came to Toronto earlier in the season.

  • Mule or etc...

    You know, if you look at Fangraphs’ BaseRuns which strips out sequencing to give you a better idea of team talent and future performance the 19-26 Jays should actually be 19-26. So nuts.