By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published May 12, 2014 at 2:09 PM

I am stunned. I did not expect the Brewers to be so good this season. Even without Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, they took two of three from the Yankees. They may have cooled down from their amazing April, but the Brewers are for real.

Keep in mind that I saw them in Spring Training. True, it was only four games, and they lost them all. They didn’t look great like they did in 2008 or 2011. Still, as I wrote in March, the Brewers had a air confidence about them. They looked ready to go out there and get to work.

Amazingly, they brought that attitude to the regular season.

I’ll admit it, though. I was an early naysayer. I thought Doug Melvin made some questionable moves in the offseason, and swung and missed by bringing in Mark Reynolds at first.

Back in January, I tweeted my angst, actually. I wondered if the 2014 Brewers would be an improvement from the 2013 squad. That skepticism led to a long and detailed email from Joe Robinson, a senior account executive in ticket sales with the Brewers.

With his permission, I’m reprinting that email from Jan. 10. I have to say, Joe was right on:

I’m optimistic by nature, but I honestly am excited about this year. Working for the Brewers, you probably think I have to say this, but I really don’t. There are plenty of co-workers here that feel the same way you do. Let me tell you why I’m excited!!

Regardless of who plays 1B, with Braun and Ramirez back in the middle of the lineup, scoring runs won’t be a problem. It’s all going to come down to pitching like it always does and I really like our pitching. Keep in mind, last year when Gallardo and Estrada pitched for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, they threw a ton of pitches in February. They both looked to me to have completely dead arms in May (when we went 6-22). Once they went on the DL with their hamstring injuries, they came back lights out (which is how they both pitched for most of 2012). Kyle Lohse never even had a spring training last year. He signed three days before Opening Day. His April/May was virtually his spring training. Again, this coincides with our 6-22 May. Then losing Braun (wrist) and Ramirez (knee) for much of the first half killed us. Obviously the suspension of Braun was a black eye, but it was a good time for it to happen, during a season where we were already out of it.

Here’s a few things to be excited about:

  • In the six seasons (not counting last year because he didn’t really play much) with Ryan Braun, the Brewers have made the playoffs twice (2008, 2011), finished two games out of the playoffs once (2007) and were 1.5 games out of the playoffs with seven games left another time (2012). He is an elite talent and makes everyone else in the lineup better. Lost in the whole suspension/PED thing I think people forget how good he is.
  • Carlos Gomez (24 HR/40 SB) became the first player in franchise history to produce 20+ HR and 40+ SB in a season and was the only player in MLB to do so in 2013.
  • Carlos Gomez was the fifth player in MLB History to have 20+ doubles, 10+ triples, 20+ HR & 40+ SB in a season. (Jimmy Rollins-2007, Brady Anderson-1992, Bobby Bonds-1970, Lou Brock-1967).
  • After being called up on 7/23, Khris Davis led the Brewers in HR and RBI and led ALL of MLB with a .639 SLG%. (Hanley Ramirez-.599, Miguel Cabrera-.565, A. McCutchen-.561)
  • Khris Davis was 3rd in MLB with an OPS of 1.004 tailing only Mike Trout and Jayson Werth.
  • Jean Segura was among the NL leaders in stolen bases (2nd, 44), triples (2nd, 10) and hits (8th, 173).
  • Since 8/5, Scooter Gennett led the NL with a .358 batting average.
  • Aramis Ramirez hit .338 with 3 HR in September when he finally was healed from the knee injury.
  • Brewers starting pitchers went 28-24 with a 3.31 ERA over the final 81 games. That ERA was 4th best in Major League Baseball during that time.
  • The Brewers had the most shutouts (15) in MLB since 6/15.
  • Kyle Lohse went 10-4 with a 2.91 ERA over his last 22 starts (including 16 quality starts) and threw two complete games in September.
  • Over his final 17 starts, Wily Peralta was 7-7 with a 3.05 ERA.
  • After the All-Star Break, Marco Estrada was 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA and 56 strikeouts to just 11 walks.
  • In 44 starts since 2012, Marco Estrada has an ERA of 3.29.
  • Rookie Tyler Thornburg went 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA in seven MLB starts.
  • The Brewers bullpen ERA of 3.19 was the 3rd best in the NL (fifth best in MLB).
  • The Brewers were 45-16 in games in which Jim Henderson pitched (2-2, 2.70 ERA, 28 saves).
  • The Brewers were 63-1 when leading after eight innings in 2013.

I’m really intrigued by the young left handed pitcher acquired from the Royals for Aoki. If he doesn’t earn a spot in the rotation, he could be a huge part of the bullpen as a guy that can go multiple innings. He has outstanding stuff and really came into his own during the Royals playoff chase during the second half of last year.

Will Smith, 24, was 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA over 19 games with the Royals in 2013. Since June 1st, Will Smith allowed just eight runs in 29 1/3 innings (2.45 ERA), while striking out 38 and walking only six for the Royals.

Here is what Ned Yost said about Will Smith during the second half of their season last year:

"The thing that was impressive to me was the first time we brought him up to the big leagues he was 22 years old. But he’s so poised and polished that you forget he’s 22 years old. You think he’s 28 or 29 or 30. He’s a tremendous competitor. He has tremendous upside."

This season, the Royals converted Smith to the bullpen in June and, oh my. The light switch went on.

"He's just been phenomenal out there," manager Ned Yost said. "A big boost for us."

Smith is 2-0 with a dazzling 1.78 ERA out of the 'pen. He has struck out 33 hitters in 25 1/3 innings.

Some of his outings have been virtually breathtaking. In late June, he threw five shutout innings against Minnesota, striking out six and not walking a hitter.

I also like the depth of our young pitchers. I assume our rotation will be: Gallardo, Lohse, Peralta, Estrada and Thornburg. However, Nelson, Hellweg, Smith, Burgos, Jungmann, etc. give us more young pitchers than we’ve ever had in our system, which is exciting!!

What does all this mean? I don’t know. Maybe we only win 75 games again, but I’m very optimistic if we stay healthy this time around, that this team will be in contention in September. I don’t know if that means playoffs or not, but I think all most people can ask for around here is to be in it in September.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.