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Nine reasons Brewers are for real

Sep 4, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Khris Davis (right) gets a high-five from third baseman Aramis Ramirez (left) after hitting a two run home run in the 2nd inning at Miller Park. Photo: Image by Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Nine reasons Brewers are for real

By Ryan Topp. CREATED Apr 23, 2014

It’s hard to blame fans of a baseball franchise like the Brewers for being at least a little skeptical when very good things seem to be happening. After all, the franchise boasts just four playoff appearances in nearly a half century of play, so dealing with success isn’t something most fans have extensive experience with.

Of course there are going to be bumps in the road over the next 140-odd games. Every team deals with that, and so far the Brewers haven’t had to deal with too much in the way of negatives.

Still, something is most definitely brewing in Milwaukee right now, and it’s time to look at the team not as a shocking surprise that can’t possibly keep up this pace, but a real and legitimate contender.

Here are the first three of nine reasons that the Milwaukee Brewers are for real:

The schedule

So far in 2014, the Brewers have faced a very brutal schedule and still managed to jump out to the best record in baseball. Of the team’s first 21 games, 16 of them have come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013.

Going game-by-game, the Brewers opponents this year averaged 90.4 wins last year. It seems fair to say that some of those teams won’t be as good as they were last year and that many of them are off to uninspiring starts. Still, there remains a ton of talent on those clubs and the Brewers have dispatched them with relative ease as a group.

Pitchers avoiding hard contact

One of the surest ways a pitcher can avoid having runs score on him is to avoid hard contact from the batters. Sure, infield hits and bloop singles can hurt a team, but if pitchers avoid line drives and long fly balls, the damage is only going to be so bad.

Thus far in 2014, the Brewers pitching staff has excelled at avoiding hard contact.

According to ESPN.com’s proprietary statistic called Well Hit Average (WHAV) the Brewers are allowing the 4th fewest hard hit balls in MLB, at an average of 0.119 heading into play Wednesday. They’ve done this despite facing some pretty good lineups and it’s a big part of why they’re currently fifth  best in baseball with a 3.24 ERA.

Click here for more on WHAV.

The bench isn’t hitting

On the surface, this may seem like a negative, but baseball is a funny game. The season is so long that basically every player goes through some pretty significant ups and downs over the course of it.

The fact that not everyone is excelling right now means that they have some untapped potential for upside when some other players inevitably cool off.

The bench has been particularly awful in the early going, with pinch hitters accounting for a NL worst .143 batting average. Even if the current players don’t pick it up significantly, the bench is one of the easiest things to improve via trade well before the trade deadline.

One way or another, the current bench struggles don’t figure to continue all season.

(Read reasons four through nine in future columns on WIsports.com)

Ryan Topp (@RDTopp on Twitter) runs the Brewers fan site Disciples of Uecker.