The numbers are impressive: With 22 games regular season games to play, the Milwaukee Brewers (85-55) have an 11-game lead over the Reds. With a magic number of 12, it’s only a matter of time before the Brewers lock up the NL Central.
The Brewers sizeable division lead allows Craig Counsell the flexibility to manage the workload of his players leading up to the playoffs. Manage the workload he must.
Brandon Woodruff has never pitched more than 122 innings in a single season. Last season, Woodruff tossed just under 74 innings in 13 starts. This season – should the Brewers advance to the World Series – Woodruff will approach the 200 inning mark.
But Woodruff isn’t the only Brewers starter to greatly exceed his previous high-water mark. Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta – both in-line to start playoff games – will shatter their previous highs as well.
Working in the Brewers favor are: A significant division lead, four September off days, and a staff that features 8 players who Counsell could confidently give the ball to start any given day. Of the group, only Brett Anderson has an ERA over 4.00.
The benefit of rest is paying dividends for veterans in the starting lineup. Lorenzo Cain (62 games played) is hitting .306 over his last 33 games. Christian Yelich (97 games played) is hitting .340 over his last 26. Injuries forced Cain and Yelich out of the daily line-up, but both are back to full health, fresh and thriving.
Recently, Counsell had the luxury of resting Willy Adames and his sore quad. Adames – the key offensive piece in the Brewers offense since mid-May – never had a day off…until he needed one.
For the Brewers to make a deep run, their prized arms must be their regular-season selves. They will be if Counsell continues his season-long approach.