1. Why aren't the Brewers hitting? It's been a tough couple of months for the Brewers. They lost Yovani Gallardo, Eric Gagne has been a disaster, and they're not scoring runs. Ryan Braun has been very good the last ten days or so, but he's the first of the Brewers' core of young hitters to really get it going. Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, and Rickie Weeks -- good hitters all -- have struggled. Manager Ned Yost recently said that Weeks' is hitting well but balls just aren't falling in. Indeed, he has a terrible BABIP this year.
2. Ryan Dempster: What? Dempster wasn't even a particularly good reliever, so his 2.35 ERA this year after moving back to the rotation is certainly a surprise. His peripherals don't support that ERA -- his .211 BABIP is fifth lowest in the majors among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched -- but he's still striking out twice as many batters as he's walking and doing a good job keeping the ball on the ground. The Cubs' decision to let him start may have been a much better idea than I thought at the time.
3. Why is Ryan Ludwick hitting so well? I thought it might be the fact that the Cards are getting him lots of at bats against lefties, but no -- he's got an 1.164 OPS against righties and a .960 OPS against southpaws. He went an amazing 9-for-13 with three jacks in a single series at Coors Field this year, which certainly doesn't hurt. Ludwick looked like a standard-issue AAA journeyman in 2005 and 2006 with the Cleveland and Detroit organizations, but it's possible his fine performances last year in St. Louis and their AAA team in Memphis marked the beginning of a slightly late peak. He probably won't have a long career, and his batting average is going to come down in the coming months, but he looks like a legit big league outfielder.
4. Why is Edinson Volquez pitching so much? Actually, I do understand this one. But it would really worry me if I were a Reds fan. Volquez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball so far this year, but he's only 24, and he's had three starts so far with 110 pitches or more, including 118 on May 7 against the Cubs. Notorious manager Dusty Baker has been more careful with another youngster, Johnny Cueto, so there may be some sort of plan at work here, and 118 pitches by a 24-year-old certainly isn't the worst case of pitcher abuse I've ever seen. Still, though, Volquez is a strong young talent, and the Reds should be aware that you can have too much of a good thing.
5. How is it possible that the Reds' pitchers lead the big leagues in strikeouts? The Reds have six pitchers -- Volquez, Cueto, and four relievers -- averaging a strikeout per inning this year, and Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang aren't far behind. That's one way to keep runs off the board in the Great American Ballpark: the Reds have a 3.70 ERA there this year despite allowing 28 homers at home.