By: Charles Booth
The first month of the season is about to come to a close, and I wanted to look at the surprise teams in the MLB: one in the AL one in the NL. The NL team is a no brainer because it is the resurgent Milwaukee Brewers who have baseball’s best record. The AL team was more of a tossup, but I decided to go with the Minnesota Twins because who would expect them to be near .500 – let alone being one game over and one game behind the Detroit tigers for first place in the AL Central? I think the Brewers will contend for the NL Central title, and they will definitely be able to secure a wild card spot if everything holds up. The Twins will probably regress towards .500 unless the pitching holds up. I want to take some time to look into these two teams and how they’re doing it.
The Brewers were in utter turmoil last year with the suspension of Ryan Braun and the woes of their pitching staff. Now, they have embraced the “bad boys in town” label and developed their pitching staff to become top dog in the MLB. Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo have led the staff with ERA’s of 2.38 and 1.91 respectively as of April 29th (All stats courtesy of Baseballprospectous.com). The Brew Crew is allowing 3.15 runs per game, which is good for third in the league. No matter who you are, if you allow three runs per game, then you are going to win a ton of baseball games. As for the lineup, they have been led by Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, who have triple slash lines of .318/.361/.592 and .292/.356/.538 (triple slash is Average/On base% /Slugging %). Braun and Gomez have the Brewers scoring 4.08 runs per game, which on its own is not much; however, combined with their pitching staff, that is more than sufficient a la the San Francisco Giants World Series Blueprint. You cannot look at the success of the Brewers without ending on their bullpen though, which hinges on Francisco Rodriguez, aka K-Rod. The Brewers closer, who they first traded to the Orioles then re-signed for 3.25 million (courtesy of rotoworld.com), has been the true definition of a closer. In 15 innings, K-Rod has struck out 21 batters and has not allowed a run while getting a MLB-leading 12 saves. This means out of the Brewers’ 17 wins, K-Rod has closed out 12 of them. Sure, the Brewers will be due for some regression, but it has been fun to watch.
The Twins, on the other hand, have shown much less flash in how they have achieved their wins. The Twins are scoring 5.52 runs per game while allowing 5.30 runs per game. The offense has had to pickup the pitching staff on multiple occasions, which has been led by the resurgent Chris Colabello with an astounding 27 RBI. He and the ultra consistent Brian Dozier .217/.354/.457, along with 7 homers and 6 steals, have led the offense with the decline of Joe Mauer. The Twins are also leading the MLB in base percentage, showing that manager Ron Gardinhire has preached plate discipline and that his Twins hitters have responded. You do not get 27 RBI if no one is getting on base in front of you. The pitching has been a completely different story altogether. The best starters have been Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, who have ERA’s of 5.14 and 3.63. I know a 5.14 ERA is unsightly, but that is skewed by a few bad starts. Other than those two pitchers, there is no starter in the rotation with an ERA under the high 4’s. The bullpen has not been much better as Glen Perkins has only notched 6 saves on the young season. The Twins, if the offense keeps going strong, will be able to contend in a weak AL Central. Their Achilles heel, nonetheless, will always be the rotation. If starters like Ricky Nolasco return to form, then the Twins will have a much easier time matching up with the division leading Detroit Tigers.
If you can say you had these two teams contending, even at this early point in the season, then I would like to take your crystal ball to Vegas. Both teams have their flaws: the Twins in their rotation and the Brewers in their offense. I predict that the Brewers will finish the season with a 90-72 record and place first in the NL Central. The Twins will finish with an 81-81 record, but if they make a deal for a pitcher at the deadline, which will push the prediction up towards 86-76 because they have an offense that can play with anyone, then we shall see a nice last to first story at the end of the season.
As usual, we appreciate each and every one of our viewers. Also special thanks to Charles for his contribution. Please feel free to follow him under the Twitter handle of @Chat_with_chuck to interact with him on the latest in Baltimore sports news, and more.