It’s no secret the Milwaukee Brewers boast a star-studded outfield. There’s a former MVP. (Perhaps) a future MVP. And a World Series champion who was MVP of the ALCS leading up to the World Series. While there’s certainly talent in the infield, that unit goes about things in a slightly different way.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Jesus Aguilar was an All-Star this season. It would be a surprise to exactly zero Brewer fans if Travis Shaw (or Orlando Arcia, for that matter) made All-Star games before their careers were over. That’s nothing to sneeze at
But whereas the outfield is a monsoon of talent, the Brewers infield is more of a pounding rain that just keeps coming … and coming.
Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames bring a one-two, righty-lefty power bunch few teams can have. Why? Because most teams don’t have the versatility elsewhere to carry two players who can really only play first. (Though, to be fair, it wouldn’t be shocking if we didn’t see any Thames over the course of the postseason.) Shaw’s ability to move back and forth from third to first fills in that void should Thames (continue) to be left off the postseason roster.
That could mean more Mike Moustakas in the lineup, too. He also brings the same type of championship pedigree that Cain brings from Kansas City (and a player who’s a two-time All-Star in his own right). Moustakas has never been a big batting average guy, nor a huge power bat in the traditional sense. But he doesn’t strikeout much and puts pressure on the defense by putting the ball in play.
Utility man Hernan Perez allows all the other wheels to move. Knowing there’s a player that can virtually play all nine positions (remember, he’s pitched before, too!) in your back pocket allows Craig Counsell to take chances and be aggressive in seeking mismatches elsewhere. If it doesn’t work, sub in Perez. He might not bring the star power of other players on the roster, but he’s a gritty player that doesn’t do anything harmful to the Brewers’ chances of winning.
Jonathan Schoop (an All-Star in 2017) can be plugged in wherever needed. Though mainly thought of as second baseman, he was brought to Milwaukee at a time when they were searching for answers at shortstop. He was kind of an outside-the-box solution to the problem.
Now that Orlando Arcia has settled back in as an everyday shortstop, Schoop has proven to be a really sneaky good pickup. He might not get a ton of action going forward, but that’s exactly the point here: he’s overqualified for his role on the Brewers. As long as he’s cool with it and willing to sacrifice in the name of winning, Schoop is exactly what makes the infield an unrelenting downpour for opposing pitchers.
If an opposing team can avoid giving up the longball to Aguilar, likes their lefty/lefty matchups against Shaw and Moustakas, and can get Arcia to chase pitches out of the zone (as he’s prone to do), Counsell can turn to Schoop. Sure, his production has dropped his coming over from Baltimore, but you really think pitchers want to tempt fate by treating Schoop as an easy out?
That brings us to Orlando Arcia. It’s tempting to say Arcia’s season has been a roller coaster. But that’s not necessarily true. Roller coasters have ups and downs. Arcia’s season has been mostly down. Milwaukee gave him every opportunity to cement his name on the lineup card at short. He’s always been an elite-level defensive player. And should have a couple of Gold Gloves in his future. But he struggled at the plate for most of this pro career, especially for much of this season.
It was his bat that led to a midseason demotion to triple-A. But from Sept. 1st to Oct. 1st, he held a .329 batting average with a crazy .803 OPS. He’s never been much of a home run hitter, and likely never will be, but if he maintains good contact and hit some balls into the gaps he can use his legs to turn singles into doubles, doubles into the occasional triple. Essentially, his speed on the base paths translates into the equivalent of a player who’s raw power numbers are well beyond Arcia’s abilities at the plate.
Add it all up, and the Brewers have a title wave of talent up and down the lineup.