Standoff In The NL Central
Ever since Cincinnati called up Elly De La Cruz and brought Joey Votto back from the IL, they've gone on a tear, having an incredible month of June that included a 12-game win streak. Powered by their young nucleus that includes standouts like Matt McLain, TJ Friedl, and Spencer Steer, they posted a team OPS of .791, 4th in MLB, last month.
On the other hand, the Brewers continued their summer slump, posting a .655 OPS, 27th in MLB. This clear disparity in offense allowed the Reds to close a large divisional deficit and overtake Milwaukee by one game in the NL Central. Based on FanGraphs' playoff projections, the Brewers still have a 54.4% chance to clinch the division, whereas the Reds have a just a 29.9% chance, but those numbers could change quickly with a winning or losing streak by either team.
Interestingly enough, Baseball Reference gives the Brewers, Reds, and Cubs somewhat even chances of clinching the division at 36.6%, 34.5%, and 27.7% respectively. FanGraphs is a little more pessimistic, giving the Cubs just a 5.6% chance to take the top spot. If you choose to go off of Pythagorean wins and losses, all three teams are still quite even.
So who knows what will happen? The Brewers can't hit, the Reds can't pitch, and the Cubs keep getting unlucky in close games.
Shuffling The Starting Rotation
Fans have been awaiting Brandon Woodruff's return from the IL, and he's been making progress, staying in Milwaukee during the All-Star break to continue his rehabilitation and gradually ramp up his throwing sessions. The problem is, the Brewers already have six starters in their rotation, so who's getting the boot to make room for Woodruff?
We can pretty safely eliminate Corbin Burnes, and the Brewers front office has reaffirmed their unwillingness to trade him, so we'll likely continue to see him take the mound. Wade Miley is having one of the best seasons of his long career, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while also being the only lefty starter on the team. Julio Teheran has been solid at eating innings and is still a cromulent starter, posting a 3.64 ERA skewed by conceding 13 runs in his past two starts. Adrian Houser recently returned from his own IL stint and has been solid. Freddy Peralta and Colin Rea have been slightly below average, both posting ERA+ values of 90.
If the Brewers decide to simply remove someone from the roster, I imagine it will be Rea. However, given that he's already done so a few times this season, Houser could also be moved to the bullpen, ceding his spot in the starting rotation to Woodruff. Milwaukee could also choose to shift some of their excess pitching pieces in exchange for prospects or players to bolster their somewhat lean infield.
Potential Rowdy Resurgence
Rowdy Tellez is not having a great year. Currently posting a .672 OPS (83 OPS+) and a -0.4 rWAR, Tellez has been unable to fulfill his role as an RBI contributor. While he had 89 last season, second only to Willy Adames's 98, Tellez currently has just 36, on pace for just 64 total RBI this season.
He's struggling in so many areas, making infrequent hard contact (38.5%, 37th percentile), striking out more than league average (24.0%, 36th percentile), and whiffing on breaking balls (31.3%) and off-speed pitches (31.8%) alike. With Darin Ruf on the 60-day IL and Owen Miller having to cover every position in the sport of baseball, Tellez's responsibilities at first base are pretty much his and his alone when he returns from the IL.
With this season being the final year of his contract, it's even more crucial that he perform at the highest level before heading into arbitration eligibility in 2024 and free agency in 2025.
What storylines are you watching most closely as the Brewers head to Cincinnati to open the second half of the campaign? Let us know what you think.
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