MILWAUKEE, WI – JULY 02: at Miller Park on July 2, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

In July 2014, the Milwaukee Brewers (49-32) held a five-and-a-half game lead in the NL Central. The team flipped its script with a 33-48 record the rest of the way, including a 9-22 mark to wrap up the season, and ended up watching the postseason from their respective sofas. Since then, general manager David Stearns has dealt a handful of quality players, including catcher Jonathan Lucroy, shortstop Jean Segura, and outfielders Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis.

Sound like an extensive rebuild? Not so fast. Three years later, the Brewers (50-41) currently possess the exact same lead in the NL Central. Regression doesn’t seem to be looming, either.

Stearns has managed to piece together an offensive powerhouse without spending much in the process. Milwaukee ranks second in the league in home runs (138) and eighth in runs per game (4.96). Their hitters have absolutely teed off on the ball as well, ranking sixth in the NL in barrel rate (4.1 percent), which determines how often the ball’s exit velocity and launch angle reach the barrel zone.

“I said it in spring training, but one of our biggest strengths was that our whole 40-man roster was filled with really good players,” outfielder Ryan Braun said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Tom Haudricourt. “That’s not something we’ve been able to say in the last 10 years since I’ve been here. Hopefully, we’ll be able to weather the storms.”

Additionally, their top nine home run hitters combine to make a whopping $28 million this season. A hefty amount stems from Braun, who’s reeling in $20 million.

Braun isn’t necessarily worth that paycheck anymore, ranking fifth on the team in homers (10) and 10th in RBI (23) while suffering from a calf injury in late May. However, third baseman Travis Shaw, first baseman Eric Thames and outfielder Domingo Santana have done more than make up for their teammate’s struggles.

Shaw was sent from Boston to Milwaukee in the offseason in package for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in June. The Brewers look like geniuses as of now, as Shaw sits 15th in the league under wOBA (.390), behind Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant and Marlins’ outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Not only is he consistently getting on base, but the late blooming, 27-year-old also finds himself tied for fifth in RBI (65) to go along with his career-high 19 homers.

A handful of the latter totals have come with runners in scoring position (RISP), as Shaw is batting .333 with seven home runs and 47 RBI in those instances.

After spending the last three seasons playing baseball in Korea, the 30-year-old Thames has been a revelation, though he’s come back down to earth over the last month-plus. He’s tied for sixth in the majors with 23 home runs, along with an OBP of .368 with RISP. Santana, who was a part of the Gomez-to-Houston deal in 2015, doesn’t hit as many balls out of the park as Thames (15), yet his .291/.384/.497 slash line lends the organization plenty of value.

Milwaukee’s arms also hardly showcase any household names, besides starter Matt Garza. Nevertheless, they’re tied for eighth in the league in pitching WAR (9.4) with the St. Louis Cardinals. Though the Cardinals are 5.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central, the other six teams above them in that category all sit in the postseason picture.

Jimmy Nelson and All-Star Chase Anderson, who have sat at the forefront of the Brewers’ rotation all season, rank eighth (2.9) and 11th (2.7) in WAR among their peers. Nelson’s FIP (3.18) sits eighth in the league, and Anderson is stringing together a fine season with a 2.89 ERA.

It’s not all cheesy in Milwaukee, though. The team sits seventh in BABIP (.310), which may look sizable in theory. But considering the Brewers’ enormous home run total, luck might not fall their way come the second half despite a power-friendly ballpark.

Still, the Chicago Cubs and aforementioned Cardinals aren’t guaranteed to shake off their inconsistencies after the All-Star break. The Cubs own the fourth-worst batting average with RISP (.230), failing to aid a rotation that has yielded 80 runs in the first inning. They allowed a mere 71 runs in the first all of last season. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have allowed the sixth-most runs within the eighth and ninth innings (83), leading to their 11 blown saves.

If the Brewers’ power doesn’t depreciate too much the rest of the way, they should remain in the driver’s seat. A trade deadline addition would obviously bolster their chances, too. Reports have the club in the market for White Sox starter Jose Quintana or the Athletics’ Sonny Gray. Even though Quintana would cost more because of his team-friendly contract, his potential new team could hold onto his rights for at least the next three-and-a-half seasons. Over his last seven starts, he’s boasting a 2.70 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

“He (Stearns) has the wherewithal to do something if he wants to,” owner Mark Attanasio told the New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner. “He has a very high batting average. So if David wants to make a call, it’s a good moment for him to make a call, in any direction.”

Following a five-year playoff drought, the Brewers appear to be on track to erase their demons of 2014.

About Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a graduate of DePaul University. Along with writing, he also works at 670 The Score, a sports radio station in Chicago.