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Nine reasons Brewers are for real

Apr 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (26) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Photo: Image by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Nine reasons Brewers are for real

By Ryan Topp. CREATED Apr 25, 2014

Earlier this week, we took a look at the first three of nine explanations, and reasons four through six for the Milwaukee Brewers' 16-6 start.

Here is the final 3-pack of nine reasons that the Brewers are for real:

Bullpen is deep, and batters aren't hitting them

You know things are going your way when the guy with a 0.73 ERA has only the fourth best mark in his bullpen, but that is where Tyler Thornburg currently finds himself. Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith and Brandon Kintzler have yet to allow an earned run between them, and Zach Duke’s new delivery has him currently under 2.00 as well.

While this level of dominance obviously will not last all year, this isn’t just a flash in the pan. The Brewers' pen is 2nd in all of baseball behind the Braves in striking out 29.5% of the batters they face. Pair that with the fourth best mark in batters walked at 6.5% and you have a recipe for success.

Kintzler and Tom Gorzelanny should add some depth to a group that has been heavily taxed by all the winning in the early going.

Balanced rotation

Everyone loves an “ace” pitcher, the kind of guy you want to pitch in game one of a playoff series.

While there is undoubtedly value in having a guy like that, especially come playoff time, it’s not really necessary to winning big.

What the Brewers have is a group of starters who have accounted for 17 “quality starts” in 22 games thus far in 2014.

A quality start is defined as a starter going at least 6 innings and allowing three or fewer runs, and the Brewers' 17 is the third best mark in the majors this year.

It’s not the best statistic in the world, at least partly because the minimum standard isn’t all that outstanding, but it does at least point to the ability of starters to keep their team in the game.

Brewers starters have done that very well early this year.  They’ve kept their team in the game for the offense to give the bullpens lots of leads to hold down. This is a winning formula over the course of 162 games.

The numbers: PECOTA

The good people over at the publication Baseball Prospectus love their numbers. They designed a system that uses historical data to project player production called PECOTA, and they use it in a lot of different ways.

One of the more interesting ways they apply PECOTA is to use it to run simulations and to thus determine playoff odds of teams.

As of Friday, April 25th the Brewers had the best odds in the NL Central of making the playoffs according to this system.

Obviously, this isn’t an iron clad guarantee and the Brewers were at 62.9% on Friday, so it’s hardly an overwhelming number.

When you account for the competition that the Brewers have faced and the fact that their players seem to have made some truly substantial improvements to the factors that underlie performance, though, it’s pretty clear that this team has a legitimate shot to make some real noise in the playoff race this year.

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