By GERY WOELFEL
It would be foolhardy to say the Milwaukee Brewers couldn’t win the World Series this season.
After all, the Brewers boast an elite pitching staff that features three high-grade starters and an ace reliever.
The Brewers’ “Big Three’’ starters – Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta – are all flame-throwers who have fashioned amazing regular-season numbers. To wit:
- Burnes posted an 11-5 record with a Major League Baseball-best 2.43 earned run average.
- Woodruff went 10-11 with a 2.56 ERA, fourth best in all of baseball.
- Peralta was 10-5 and recorded a 2.81 ERA.
All three of those pitchers consistently overpowered hitters as reflected in their strikeout totals. Burnes’ 234 strikeouts were the fifth most in both leagues; Woodruff’s 211 Ks were the 11th most and Peralta’s 195 strikeouts ranked 19th.
And then there is Josh Hader, the Brewers’ prime-time closer. Hader’s ERA was 1.23, and in 58.2 innings this season, he struck out 102.
Yes, the Brewers have the pitching arsenal to win it all.
What the Brewers don’t have is hitting – at least based on regular-season numbers.
The Brewers managed to have only three players hit over .270: Willy Adames at .285, Rowdy Tellez at .272 and Kolten Wong also at .272.
Collectively, the Brewers ranked near the bottom in all of baseball with a paltry .233 batting average. That tied them with Miami for 27th place in that category. The only teams which had lower averages were Texas at .232 and Seattle at .226.
Whether the Brewers can win the World Series with such a pathetic hitting team is questionable. History says it’s almost downright impossible.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau in New York, no team with a batting average below .235 has won the World Series in more than 50 years.
The last World Series champion to have a regular-season team batting average of .235 or lower was the Detroit Tigers, who beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
That Detroit team, in many respects, mirrors the current Brewers squad. The Tigers, as mentioned, batted .235, and had just one batter hit over .270 for the regular season, that being Willie Horton, who finished at .285.
Like the Brewers, the Tigers had terrific pitching. The Tigers’ ace was Denny McLain, who fashioned one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of the game.
McLain posted a 31-6 record with a 1.96 ERA.
The Tigers had two other pitchers who excelled that season: Mickey Lolich, who was 17-9 with a 3.18 ERA, and Earl Wilson, who was 13-12 with a 2.85 ERA.
Lolich was simply sensational in the World Series, pitching three complete game victories.
So, while from a historical standpoint, the feeble-hitting Brewers have an imposing mountain to climb to win their first-ever World Series, the Tigers proved it’s still possible to attain baseball’s ultimate prize with superior pitching.