Are the Milwaukee Brewers contenders or pretenders?

The Milwaukee Brewers are in first place in the National League Central with a 24-18 record. While the offense has mashed thanks to some new faces, will the team be able to compete with the rest of the league throughout the rest of the year?

The Milwaukee Brewers, much like the majority MLB fans, probably didn’t expect this. After 42 games, the Wisconsin club sits atop the National League Central standings, ahead of the defending World Series champ Chicago Cubs and the always consistent St. Louis Cardinals.

This isn’t the first time Milwaukee has led the pack throughout the past few years, but the team faltered the last time they was deemed a legitimate contender.

In 2014, Milwaukee was in first place the majority of the year before becoming the biggest choke artists prior to the Golden State Warriors or Atlanta Falcons.

Luckily for Brewers fans, they won’t have to endure another late-season meltdown because by the end of the season, their team won’t be in contention for a division title or playoff berth.

Kudos to manager Craig Counsell for defying the preseason predictions made by some MLB analysts. But there are plenty of games left to be played. It takes runs to win baseball games, and Milwaukee hasn’t had difficulty lighting up the scoreboard.

The Brewers rank third overall in runs scored, led by the reemergence of first baseman Eric Thames and Travis Shaw‘s sudden breakout. With Ryan Braun healthy, the middle of the lineup is stacked with power.

Milwaukee’s offense is producing even without strong contributions from speedster Jonathan Villar or infield prodigy Orlando Arcia. They are the only to regulars on the squad hitting below .250. The lineup could stay this consistent and lead the league in runs at this pace. But in actuality, it is unlikely.

Teams will begin to figure out Thames, if he stays healthy, and guys like Hernan Perez, Domingo Santana and Eric Sogard – yes, nerd power back! – will begin to slow down at the plate.

Scoring runs won’t be the team’s biggest concern moving forward. Preventing runs will be, especially early in games.

The Brewers’ pitching staff hasn’t been terrible since last season. As a team, they posted a 4.08 ERA in 2016, even with non-household names fronting the rotation, like Junior Guerra and Zach Davies. The bullpen’s performance was more impressive though, sporting a 3.61 ERA altogether.

A similar trend has occurred so far this year. Flamethrower Jacob Barnes has settled nicely into the setup position, while Corey Knebel has taken over the closer spot – Neftali Feliz is more of a setup guy anyways.

The rotation has been shaky. Guerra has been injured, Davies hasn’t been dominant, forcing Counsell to rely on the likes of Matt Garza, who went to my high school, by the way, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Wily Peralta has four wins with an ERA above 6.00 while Chase Anderson, the team’s ace so far, has garnered a 3.43 ERA.

While the Brewers have plenty of prospects, don’t expect to see them any time soon, as the team is still in rebuild mode. Outfielder Lewis Brinson could make his debut once Milwaukee trades Braun – assuming they do – but the young promising arms, including Josh Hader and Luis Ortiz, still have some progress to make.

It’s been a good ride, but Brewers will start selling as the season progresses.

It could still be a few years before they make the playoffs for their first time since 2011, when Prince Fielder was the face of the organization.

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