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Tuesday, August 14th 2018
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Buying Pitching Doesn’t Need to be Expensive

The Brewer’s starting rotation this year has been injury filled and at times inconsistent. FA acquisition Jhoulys Chacin had been the steady power in the sometimes uncertainty of the starting rotation.

Chacin was for sure one of the more overlooked pitcher FA from 2018. Halfway through the season he looks to be one of the “gems”. Guys like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta who were projected to be big additions to any team have, in a way, under performed.

Chacin, by far, was the cheapest signing out of the three pitchers. Looking at stats like FIP (fielding independent pitching) and WAR (wins above replacement) Jhoulys Chacin is showing the best value and “bang-for-the-buck”.

Team Player FIP WAR Contract
MIL Jhoulys Chacin 3.93 1.8 $15.5mil/2 years
PHI Jake Arrieta 4.06 1.5 $75mil/3 years
CHC Yu Darvish 4.85 0.2 $126mil/6 years

 

There is not much of a difference between Arrieta and Chacin.  However, the Brewers come out on top. The Brewers were able to get Chacin at a fraction of the cost of Arrieta. This is key for a small market team – like the Brewers – trying to contend with larger market teams like the Cubs and Phillies.

The Brewers rotation this year has been a little bit shaky at times.  Because of this, they have been linked to many pitchers currently on the trading block. Two pitchers that fit in this category are Chris Archer and Jacob deGrom. Both have been mentioned and linked with the Brewers. Stearns has mentioned that if they were to trade for a starting pitcher, he would want someone to lead the rotation. Archer and deGrom would definitely lead the rotation. Here is how they compare to Jhoulys Chacin.

Team Player FIP WAR
MIL Jhoulys Chacin 3.93 1.8
TB Chris Archer 3.50 1.7
NYM Jacob deGrom 2.32 4.4

 

Jacob deGrom clearly is the best out of the three and one of the best in the league. While Chris Archer is quite comparable to Jhoulys Chacin and in a trade sense most likely “cheaper”. Although, adding one of these pitchers could make the team even more dangerous. It comes down to the price. How much David Stearns be willing to give up in terms of prospects.

Highly touted prospects like Keston Hiura, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta are going to be brought up many times in trade discussions. Whether Stearns is okay with trading one of those guys is yet to be determined.


The moral of the story is Chacin has been a inexpensive weapon for the Brewers this season. Sometimes “buying high” is not always going to get the “highest” results. Trading for another top pitcher could be very costly in much the same way.  Will it be worth it to “buy high” on the trade market? Only time will tell.

The Brewer’s starting rotation this year has been injury filled and at times inconsistent. FA acquisition Jhoulys Chacin had been the steady power in the sometimes uncertainty of the starting rotation.

What will the Brewers do at the 2018 trade deadline? CCC Roundtable

As we approach the 2018 MLB trade deadline on July 31st there have been a lot of big names thrown out as available for teams looking to buy. Manny Machado has been the biggest name all season long, and recently landed with the Dodgers, which kicked off the craziness that is the trade deadline.

A couple of us writers here at Cream City Central put together our opinions of what we think the Brewers will do here at the deadline, what are yours?

Jessy Stagliano @stagosaurusss

The Brewers limped into the all-star break this season, and it all but finished the discussions on if the Brewers will acquire someone at the 2018 deadline, it is now a matter of whom. There are two glaring holes in this team, the middle infield, and the starting rotation-especially with the Brent Suter news, but both are almost equally important. It will be interesting to see if Stearns will diverge from his controllability plan to get a rental, or try to sign an additional guy long term.

I think the best fit for the Brewers for a pitching would be Chris Archer from Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old two-time all-star is having a down year, but is a career 3.7ish ERA guy. He also has team controllability until 2021; he totally fits the David Stearns controllability mindset.

As far as middle infield, my ideal scenario would be acquiring Mike Moustakas from Kansas City. The 29-year-old third baseman has a mutual option for 2019 the Brewers might consider, but he would be more of a rental type player. This of course would require Travis Shaw to move to second, which would solve the middle infield problem, all while beefing up that lineup for this season.

Sam Monnat @sam_monnat02

The Brewers can most benefit from an improvement up the middle at second base and shortstop. The offense has been a black hole past the 5 spot, and much of that is due to the total lack of production from those two positions. Tyler Saladino has been a nice small addition, but it’s tough to expect him to continue to sustain adequate production over the remainder of the season. One intriguing upgrade I could see the Brewers making is trading for either one of or both of the Twins’ starting middle infielders; Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar. Both are above average bats that could kick-start the second half of the line up.

As far as pitching, I would expect a starter to be added before a reliever following the Brent Suter injury. I think it’s tough to get a good feel for what exactly the Brewers are thinking as for as arms go simply because the need isn’t as apparent as on offence. They could take a flyer on a rental, or go bigger and look at a controllable starter like Chris Archer. If the Brewers go after any reliever I would expect it to be after the July 31st trade deadline, via waivers.

Ryan Timmerman @TheDudeMan3

The 2018 Brewers don’t necessarily fall neatly into either the “buyer” or “seller” category. Sure, they’re good enough to contend this season. But they’re young enough to contend perennially. So how much of the future are you willing to sacrifice for the now? It’s entirely possible – even likely – that fans will be surprised by the number of moves Milwaukee makes, but slightly disappointed by the lack of big names coming back.

The biggest fish, Manny Machado, is already off the market. Milwaukee’s situation is pretty obvious: they might look into bringing in bullpen help (make a team strength even stronger), help up the middle infield, and help in the starting rotation. If they were busy scouting Machado recently they probably got a good look at Orioles starter Dylan Bundy and reliever Zach Britton, both available. As for the infield, a guy like Whit Merrifield from Kansas City could prove very usable and affordable from a prospects-sacrificed standpoint. Incremental changes could do the Brewers a world of good, and the front office might not think a “we’re one move away” home run swing at the deadline is the right approach.

Al Juneau @junesfoshiz

Stearns has always been shrewd in trades, as a fan base we sort of knew Machado would only be the move if Stearns got him at the price he thought efficient. I believe Stearns will prioritize getting one infield bat and one reliever. A pair of a low cost consolidation moves instead of a huge roster-altering move. I would expect Stearns to keep Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Corey Ray, and Keston Hiura. This organization has an excellent AA team that will provide solid depth next year. They do have to trade some prospects though as there will be an intense 40 man roster crunch this summer. If I had to predict names the Brewers will acquire, I’d go with: Brian Dozier and Zach Britton.

It will be a tough decision on what to do for the 2018 Brewers, but here’s to an enjoyable ride.

Suter Hits the DL: What Does His Future Hold?

The injury skid continued for the Brewers on Monday as they lost starting pitcher Brent Suter for the rest of the year. Suter tore the UCL in his throwing arm during his most recent start on Sunday and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Tommy John typically requires 12-14 months for full recovery, meaning that there is a chance we will not see Suter for the rest of this season and all of next year as well.

As big of a blow as this is for the Brewers, it’s even larger for Suter on a personal level. Suter overcame the odds of being a 31st round draft choice to make it to the majors. Throw in the fact that he is one of the lightest throwing starters in the league, and his story to success becomes even more fascinating.

What will become of Suter now that he is on the DL? Well, the Brewers have two options: to renew his contract in the off-season (he is not yet arbitration eligible), or let him go. They are much more likely to renew his contract, but let’s explore each option and their ramifications.

Should the Brewers choose to retain Suter (which I believe is very likely), they would renew his contract at the league minimum or very close to it, as is custom for players that are not yet arbitration eligible. In doing so, they would need to carry him on the 40-man roster for the entirety of the offseason. They would then place him on the 60-day DL at the outset of the season, which would free up his 40-man roster spot and allow the Brewers to add another player. Suter would rehab with the club’s training staff and compete for a spot on the pitching staff once healthy.

The second option would be for the Brewers to not renew his contract, which would make him a free agent. I believe this to be unlikely due to Suter proving his capability as an MLB-level pitcher, but the Brewers will likely face a roster crunch this offseason as prospects in their system gain Rule-5 eligibility. It may be difficult for David Stearns to fill a 40-man spot with a player that likely will not contribute for an entire season, but that will be necessary if the Brewers want to retain him for the future.

Suter is not a true difference-maker on the mound – he is more so an innings eater. That could make him expendable in the eyes of some decision makers. However, effective pitching is tough to come by, and Suter has proven that he can produce at an adequate level. In addition, the Brewers have a true clubhouse leader in Suter. Hopefully that, and the potential for future success, provides enough value to justify a 40-man roster spot this offseason.

Making the Postseason: Part V

One common link to the Brewers most recent playoff appearances has been the acquisition of a top-notch ace to the starting rotation. In 2008, CC Sabathia was acquired on July 7th and carried the Brewers on his back to a Wild Card berth and their first playoff appearance in 26 seasons. Sabathia pitched 130 2/3 innings for the Brewers posting a 1.65 ERA, 128 strikeouts/25 walks, 14 team wins in 17 starts, seven complete games and as mentioned one drought ending playoff berth.

Two years later, after having arguably the best offense in the National League in 2010 with rising stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Brewers stumbled to a 77-85 record due to a porous starting rotation consisting of Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Doug Davis. General Manager Doug Melvin immediately revamped the starting rotation in the offseason, trading for Shaun Marcum and then landing the 2009 American League Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke in a trade. While Melvin gave up top prospects in both deals the new combo joined current starters Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson to help immediately jumpstart the starting rotation and lead the Brewers to a franchise record 96-wins and to the NLCS.

The 2018 Brewers don’t have a bonafide ace leading their rotation, but they have been able to string together solid pitching and have been led by Jhoulys Chacin (8-3, 3.68 ERA, 6 Quality Starts (QS)), Chase Anderson (6-7, 3.78 ERA, 8 QS), and Junior Guerra (6-6, 3.23 ERA, 7 QS). Lefthander Brent Suter (8-6, 4.39 ERA, 2 QS) has filled in admirably after starting the season out of the bullpen. 22-year-old Freddy Peralta (4-1, 2.65 ERA) has thrown an impressive 50 strikeouts in his first seven MLB games, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the second half when given the opportunity. Brandon Woodruff (2-0, 4.44 ERA) has been up and down in his four spot starts and will most likely be kept in the bullpen or at AAA Colorado Springs, making an occasional spot start when needed.

Zach Davies (2-5, 5.23 ERA) had some high hopes for 2018 but those hopes, and expectations have been squashed due to various injuries. In the eight games Davies’ has pitched in in 2018 it hasn’t been pretty. Davies, who was acquired for Gerardo Parra from the Baltimore Orioles when the Brewers were sellers on trade deadline day in 2015, has most recently been recovering from a shoulder ailment and had a set back while pitching for the class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in which he exited his rehab start on July 2nd after experiencing lower back tightness. The timetable for his return is still up in the air as manager Craig Counsell was quoted as saying that the team will need to take “more conservative stance” on Davies’ rehabilitation.

Lefthander Wade Miley (1-1, 2.38 ERA) will make the first start for the Brewers in the second half of the season against the Dodgers. After being on the 60-day disabled list Miley came back to pitch five innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing two runs on four hits on July 12th. The Brewers are hoping the 31-year-old can be a steady presence for the pitching staff and maybe re-find the spark he had while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was named an All-Star in his rookie season of 2012. The last few seasons have not been kind to Miley. While with the Orioles last season Miley set career worsts in ERA (5.61), losses (15) and walks (93), so the Brewers are not looking at Miley to be a savior by any means, but more so a cheap roll of the dice on an experienced lefty to find whether he has anything left in the tank and hopefully to eat some quality innings up.

Who can the Brewers add to their starting pitching staff to help get them to October baseball?

The obvious elephant in the room is when Jimmy Nelson will return to the team? Nelson, who has been out with since September 8, 2017 with a right rotator cuff tear and partial anterior labrum tear is still going through rehab and it is very uncertain of where Nelson is in the process as the last reports were that he has not thrown off a mound yet. Nelson would be a great in-house addition, however that would be if he were able to match or at least come close to his 2017 performance of 199 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA while posting a 12-6 record. There are a lot of questions concerning Nelson’s status for 2018 and the trade deadline could reveal what the Brewers’ thoughts are on Nelson not only returning but also being able to positively contribute this season.

From the Minor League System, the Brewers could hope that the early promising display by Freddy Peralta isn’t a flash in the pan and he is given more opportunities to start and earn his keep. Corbin Burnes has been a very exciting call up, but for now the Brewers will keep him in the bullpen even though he came through the system as a starter.

Most likely the Brewers Minor League system will produce the attractive young pitching prospects to help lure seasoned and proven pitching help to get the Brewers to playing in October this year. Such prospects include RHP Luis Ortiz, LHP Kodi Medeiros and RHP Marcos Diplan whom are all on the Brewers’ top 30 prospect list.

The trade deadline is approaching on July 31 and some names that have been brought up include:

J.A. Happ- Toronto Blue Jays- the 35-year-old lefthander is having a career year and made his first All-Star appearance posting a 10-6 record, 4.29 ERA, 121 strikeouts and 8 QS. Happ wouldn’t be the ace but would help solidify a quality rotation for the final two-plus month stretch of the season.

Cole Hamels- Texas Rangers– the 34-year-old, four time all star and 2008 World Series MVP is just 5-8 with a 4.36 ERA but could use a change of scenery as Texas finds themselves in a rebuild and a chance to return to the postseason might just be the trick to rejuvenate Hamel’s down the stretch. Hamel’s contract is set to expire this year and has a history of big game success.

Chris Archer- Tampa Bay Rays– Archer hasn’t shown his previous ace like stuff over the course of 2018 and the stars seem to be aligning in Tampa Bay for a time to make a move. While also dealing with an abdominal strain the 29-year-old, two time All-Star, has posted a 3-4 record with a 4.29 ERA. Archer does have an appealing contract situation which a small market team, like the Brewers, would drool over. If the club options are picked up, Archer would be owed $26.67 million total from 2019-2021. However, Archer would come at a relatively steep price tag, but if he can get on track the move could pay off great dividends immediately and for the next few seasons to come.

Tyson Ross- San Diego Padres- with the Padres looking to unload all of their Major League assets it would seem that the Brewers may have a chance to acquire Ross to eat up innings at a low cost. Ross is set to be a free agent after the season and the 31-year old has 11 quality starts to go along with a 5-8 record on a dreadful Padres ball club and a 4.32 ERA. Ross presents as a quality, lower cost possible acquisition who was an All-Star in 2014 and while he has had questions about his consistency, but has several suitors calling the Padres inquiring about him.

Jacob deGrom- New York Mets– the Mets’ pitcher has been one of the best in all of baseball and while there were rumors connecting him to the Brewers, it is believed that ship has sailed, and deGrom will sign a long-term deal with the Mets or it would take a king’s ransom the Brewers cannot provide to get him.

How will the current rotation work out in the final two months?

With the stellar performance by the bullpen being a key reason to the Brewers’ first half success it will be up to the starters to keep accumulating quality starts and eating up innings to give the bullpen rest and help give the team a boost in the race for October. When the Brewers lost out to the Dodgers for the services to star shortstop Manny Machado it has led many speculations to believe that GM David Stearns will be focusing on adding an arm as the injury bug will likely rear its ugly head at least once more as the season rolls on.

Craig Counsell and pitching coach Derek Johnson will need to count on their staff to get every out they possibly can and start to rake up more quality starts. A quality start is a statistic for a starting pitcher defined as a game in which the pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. The MLB leaders in the first half are the Astros’ Justin Verlander, Nationals’ Max Scherzer and Indians’ Corey Kluber all whom have 17 quality starts. As shown in the stats of the Brewers’ starters above the team leader thus far is Anderson with eight.

Expect that Stearns shores up the middle infield by acquiring Brian Dozier or a comparable player and then also looks to help solidify the starting rotation adding someone in the form of J.A. Happ or Tyson Ross. However, Stearns has proven to be a very shrewd and successful General Manager in his brief tenure in the position and now with the Brewers knocking on the door the playoffs Stearns needs to play the right cards over the next 11 days to help find the right pieces to kick the door down. While the chance of hitting the jackpot with Machado didn’t happen the Brewers must do all they can to help increase their playoff chances while fighting a tight battle with the Chicago Cubs (and possibly St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates) for the NL Central title and the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, and Washington Nationals for one of the two available Wild Card spots.

One thing all Brewers’ fans can agree on is that it’s very fun to be ahead of the “rebuilding” schedule.

Making the Postseason: Part IV

 

For any baseball team with real postseason aspirations, having a solid and reliable bullpen is imperative. Luckily, the Brewers’ bullpen has shined this season after being mediocre for most of 2017. It is a huge reason why they have enjoyed overall success in 2018. Although with that being said, not all bullpen arms have been as dominant as Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress, most notably 2017 All-Star Corey Knebel, which has raised some concerns, especially towards the end of the first half. Some of that, understandably, can be attributed to the fact that the Brewers had to play 21 games in 20 days leading up to the current All-Star break. A deeper dive into the status of the Milwaukee bullpen will reveal real issues as well as real, sustainable successes.

 

Will Hader and Jeffress be able to keep up their success?

Any discussion regarding the 2018 Brewers bullpen, or pitching staff as a whole, begins and ends with the 24-year-old, flame-throwing, All-Star lefty phenom Josh Hader. He’s been absolutely terrific and near untouchable across 48 innings of work in the season’s first half with a .122 opponent batting average and 89 strikeouts, which leads all MLB relief pitchers. On the field, there is nothing that would suggest that Hader wouldn’t have continued ascendancy in the second half of the season, but some off the field issues that recently unearthed from his past may cause him to be distracted and lose focus and thus hamper his performance on the field. Here’s hoping he can bounce back quickly and avoid that circumstance.

In the case of Jeremy Jeffress, it would make sense if his numbers dipped slightly in the second half, simply because of just how dominant he’s been. Before giving up an earned run against Pittsburgh last weekend, Jeffress’ ERA sat at a staggering 0.99. It would be extremely hard to maintain that over the course of a full season, however Jeffress could be the man to do it. Jeremy has thrived under pressure this season as well, which is perhaps his best attribute. He inherits many runners late in games while the team clings to small leads, and has escaped those jams masterfully.

Is it time to worry about Corey Knebel?

2018 hasn’t gone as planned for Brewers closer Corey Knebel. He suffered a scary hamstring injury in early April and really hasn’t gotten his old groove back since. His struggles have gotten to the point where some Brewers fans think he should no longer occupy the closer’s role. I would disagree. I think that notion is rooted in recency  bias, because it is important to remember how much he thrived just a season ago in the closer’s role. And if Knebel isn’t closing games, that would likely mean Hader or Jeffress would, which is not their natural role, and likely nothing would improve. It is important to stick to the plan in place. Corey’s numbers and performance will improve.

What about the other guys?

It will be pivotal for other members of the Brewers bullpen to contribute positively aside from the Big 3 of Hader, Jeffress, and Knebel. Those guys could use some of the pressure lifted off their shoulders, and some of the “other guys” like Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers, Dan Jennings, Corbin Burnes, or perhaps an outside addition could provide a spark to a bullpen that could potentially lose some of its firepower due to fatigue as the season progresses.

Going forward, the Brewers’ bullpen is overall in a very good spot. Is it perfect? No. But is it balanced and workable? Absolutely. It remains to be seen whether or not the pen can hold up their end of the bargain in the team’s effort to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2011, but they’ve got 3 all-star caliber hurlers to go along with a good mixture of established veterans and young, up-and-coming pitchers seeking to prove their worth. If managed well, this group will help, not hurt, the Crew’s bid for the playoffs.

Whats the Deal with Josh Hader?

The last week has been quite rough on Brewer fans. A six game losing streak and now team star Josh Hader is engulfed in controversy.  During the All Star game last night, news broke of offensive tweets Josh Hader tweeted 7 years ago. They were homophobic, racist, and sexist. At the time Hader was a 17 year old kid in high school.

After the game Hader addressed the media saying, “I was in high school. We’re still learning who we are in high school. You live and you learn. This mistake won’t happen again.”

Also in the same media conversation he stated, “There is no excuse for what was said and I am deeply sorry for what I’ve said and what’s been going on.”

Hader met with the MLB earlier today and MLB came out with a statement shortly after explaining their future actions.

It stated, “During last night’s game we became aware of Mr. Hader’s unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns.”

It later said, “The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

As for David Stearns, he came out with statement saying,

“His comments are inexcusable, and he is taking full responsibility for the consequences of his actions.”

Also stated, “Those of us that have come to know Josh do not believe that these posts are representative of his beliefs. He has been a good teammate and contributor to the team in every way.”

Since then Hader has received support from teammates.

Lorenzo Cain met with media last night after briefly talking with Hader and said, “The situation is what it is. I know Hader. He’s a great guy. I’m fine. Everybody will be OK. We’ll move on from it.” “We have all said crazy things growing up.”

Jesus Aguilar tweeted earlier today saying, “He’s a great player and a better person. Great teammate.”

“He made a mistake 7 years ago. He admitted, he apologized and most important: He learned from it.”

How can we as fans, and more importantly – the team – move past this issue.  The first steps have already been taken in that the issue was confronted “head-on” by Hader and he has received the support from some teammates and club officials.  

Future steps must contain more of the same.  Continued “head-on” and genuine actions by Hader as well as continued public support from additional teammates, club officials, family and friends will help everyone involved move forward.  More importantly, these continued actions will verify that Josh Hader is the person we see now rather than the kid portrayed in tweets from seven years ago.

Making the Postseason: Part III

There’s been plenty of legitimate questions that have hung over the powers-that-be for Wisconsin’s pro sports teams. The Packers and Bucks have each made significant changes at top-level positions in the front office. And the Bucks ownership has been, well … Bucks ownership. The Brewers, however, have proven to be competent to the highest degree.

David Stearns has rightly received praise since assuming GM duties in place of Doug Melvin. Combined with Mark Attanasio, the Brewers principal owner, the Milwaukee Brewers boast one of the best front offices not just in baseball, but in all of American professional sports. At various times, the Brewers have made aggressive, forward-thinking moves while showing virtuous patience in other situations.

The Right Leader at the Right Time

As an owner, what more could a fan ask for with Mark Attanasio? For the most part, he stays out of the picture – compared to some of the more meddlesome owners around sports – but when he makes an appearance on a Brewers broadcast or interview, he’s super knowledgeable about all levels of the organization’s system. He puts people in a position to succeed and that manifests itself from the very top to the very bottom of the franchise.

(Not that it matters much in this discussion, but the Brewers have proved to be quite the business deal for Attanasio. The investment group headed by Attanasio bought the team in 2004 for $223 million. Compare that to the Miami Marlins, who have had fewer people attend some of their games this season than their minor league affiliates, a franchise notorious for leaving its fans with the short end of the stick that sold for $1.2 billion not quite a year ago.)

The Essence of Forward-Thinking Management

The rebuild came at exactly the right time, too. Much like basketball, although maybe not the quite the same extent, it feels like baseball has undergone a reevaluation of the way its played over the last five to seven years. Position players pretty much all play multiple positions, starters aren’t generally asked to go as deep into games, and the bullpen is used almost completely different. Tearing down the Brewers when they did put them in a position to be ready to build a roster ready to compete in the ultra-modern style. Plus, for the most part, manager Craig Counsell has been eagerly on board with every move and pushed all the right buttons.

Milwaukee’s front office has also shown capable of effectively playing the waiting game. Of course, injuries aren’t necessarily predictable, sitting out high-profile pitching acquisitions proved the right move. Sure, the Brewers could use a dominant pitcher (can’t every team?), but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s not like throwing tens of millions of dollars at the likes of Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn would’ve solved much. Or trading away prospects for Jose Quintana or Sonny Gray. (Quintana has not-so-arguably had the best season of that group, and he currently has respectable-but-not-dominant-by-any-means 3.96 ERA this season.)

In Stearns We Trust

Instead, Stearns & Co. risked popular opinion with some fans and went bargain bin shopping by bringing on Jhoulys Chacin, who’s provided everything anybody could’ve asked for when he signed a relatively modest two-year, $15 million deal. Chacin currently boasts a record of 8-3 with a 3.68 ERA.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.

It remains to be seen how the trade market will play out over the next couple weeks. But the Brewers justifiably were in on Manny Machado but unwilling to let the Baltimore Orioles dictate the terms of the trade and grab more or higher-value prospects. Stearns was only interested to the extent that the trade was done on his terms.

Let’s go back to the aforementioned juxtaposition between Milwaukee and Miami’s baseball teams. The Brewers recognized the fire-sale going on with the Marlins and picked up Christian Yelich for peanuts. Even though at the time, outfield was already Milwaukee’s most obvious position of best organizational depth. But Yelich was too good to pass up. He has MVP-candidate upside and is on perhaps baseball’s most team-friendly long-term contract. In the only sport that doesn’t have a salary cap and has recently seen players openly pine for $400 million deals, Yelich is in the fourth year of a seven-year, $49,570,000 pact. The last year of the deal, 2022 (an option year), tops out with Yelich seeing a salary of $15 million. There’s an argument to be made he’s comfortably worth double that amount now, but is on the books for $7 million this season.

Then came the signing of Lorenzo Cain. Fans realized the talent that moves brought. But again, many questioned why Stearns was throwing millions of dollars worth of contracts and spending so many resources at the position of most depth. Cain’s consistency has brought a stabilizing force to the top of the lineup that might not otherwise be there. And with all the Brewers injury woes and prolonged slumps in the case of Domingo Santana, Milwaukee has needed every bit of that outfield depth.

Hiring David Stearns was a bit of a high-risk move when it happened. But it’s proven to have come with a high reward. And Mark Attanasio’s combination of laid-back California demeanor with New York business savvy has been an oddly impeccable fit in Milwaukee. Together, the Brewers have an owner/general manager tandem that can truly be put up against any of MLB’s best. Check your critiques at the door, Brewers fans, the team is in good hands.

Making the Postseason: Part II

The Brewers’ infield has been possibly the most interesting unit on the team. From a surprise All-Star in Jesús Aguilar to a struggling Orlando Arcia, there has been a little bit of everything. As unpredictable as the first half has been, what can we expect going forward after the All-Star break?

Outside Moves

There is no hiding the lack of offense the Brewers have received from their middle infield spots. While Tyler Saladino has provided a nice spark at shortstop (.292/.354/.486), there is nothing to suggest that he can sustain the mini-offensive breakout he has experienced in just 79 plate appearances thus far. Jonathan Villar has proven that last year’s below average offensive season is his norm compared to 2016, and Hernan Perez is clearly not a starting caliber hitter on a team with playoff aspirations. Throw in Orlando Arcia’s severe struggles that made him one of the least effective hitters in the league, and you have a good old fashioned dumpster fire up the middle of the infield. What does this all point to? David Stearns making an outside move.

The Brewers have been heavily linked to Manny Machado, who would immediately take over at shortstop and solidify the middle of the Brewers’ lineup. This is looking less likely with each passing, but anything is still possible. While he would only be in Milwaukee for the rest of this season, he would fill the gaping hole the Brewers currently have at the position.

The Brewers have also been linked to Whit Merrifield, a second baseman from Kansas City who comes with multiple years of controllability. This could be a good option should the Brewers fall through in the Machado sweepstakes. Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar of the Minnesota Twins have also been mentioned as trade candidates, but they seem like back-up options at this point. Derek Dietrich of Miami could be another route.

Will Travis Shaw Return to Form?

Travis Shaw has been a mixed bag so far this season. He has not enjoyed the same level of success as in 2017, but has still proven valuable with a .244/.342/.467 slash line. Some of his struggles could be due to injuries that have hampered him. Hopefully the All-Star break can provide him with the time he needs to heal up and start mashing again. It is imperative that the Brewers get 2017 Travis Shaw if they are going to reach their potential.

Is Babe Aguilar Here to Stay?

It’s no question that Jesús Ruth anchored the infield for the first half. He looked unstoppable en route to 24 home runs and a ridiculous .996 OPS. There were nights where he alone carried the offense to victory. With the Brewers current roster construction, they will need much of the same from Aguilar once play resumes after the All-Star break, and all Brewers fans are hoping that he is up to the task.

Making the Postseason: Part I

Some teams need the All-Star break so bad they end up limping to the imaginary halfway finish line. The Brewers weren’t even able to limp anymore. With the first half of the 2018 season in the books, The Crew was forced to crawl all the way to that break where they will unwind, catch their breaths, watch some teammates help an All-Star team, and get ready to explode into the second part of July with some gusto. Losing 7 of their last 8, including a 5 game series sweep at the hands of the measly Pirates doesn’t look good on anyone. It particularly doesn’t look good on a team that lost their first place standing in the NL Central after holding the crown for a dominant chunk of the season so far.  It’s not hard to understand what caused this, as the Chicago Cubs finished strong, winning 7 of their last 10.

In an effort to shed some positive light, we have decided to take the off week from exhibition play to look back at the pieces that have gotten the Brewers this far, and what will continue to propel the clubhouse to a division championship title. As the All-Star game quickly approaches, we take a look at some of the team’s most prolific offensive threats, and landing 2 All-Star spots; the Brewers’ outfield.

During the offseason, additions of Lorenzo Cain (FA) and Christian Yelich via trade bolstered a question mark on the team’s back line into one of the game’s most dominant squads. Tying them both into Milwaukee on long term contracts made an impact statement that the team’s front office was ready to win some ball games at 1 Brewers Way. Following Kansas City’s World Series win in 2015, Cain continued to experience relative individual success, ending 2017 with an exact .300 batting average.

Yelich was the real surprise grab, and came out of left field, as many fans were not expecting a big time trade to rapidly accelerate the team’s rebuilding process. While the combo of Yelich and Cain were impactful moves for the Brewers’ playoff hopes, it is important to look at the unit as a whole and the continued impact the outfield can provide in the field and at the plate to lock down a playoff spot for the first time in 7 years. The primary area for concern is not so much in the field, and a major focus coming out of the All-Star break will need to be the production of the sticks. The starting outfield lineup according to MLB.com as of July 16th is as follows; Yelich (LF, BA of .292), Cain (CF, BA of .293), and Keon Broxton (RF, BA of .179). While batting average has constantly been a topic up for debate in the last 5-10 years because of its validity in terms of production, there is something to be said about an entire outfield hitting sub .300. For the Brewers to come out of the break without some improvement at the plate across the entire lineup would be unfortunate. Where this improvement will come from is uncertain, but why not start in the outfield, which contains two 2018 All-Star players?

The strangest thing about these batting averages is that none of them coincide with the team’s win column, as all three fielders have seen drastic spikes in the last 7 games. While the team lost 6 of those 7, Cain, Yelich, and Broxton all saw a leap over their 2018 totals, even seeing Yelich bat an impressive .344 over that stretch. Where the outfield has seen particularly impressive results has been in their on base percentage (OBP). Lorenzo Cain for instance, has gotten on base almost 40% of his at bats this season! This is fantastic, particularly in the first few spots of the order, allowing cleanup hitters to come to the plate with some ducks on the pond. Even Eric Thames (10-day DL), who has seen some increased playing time in right field following the strong emergence of Jesus Aguilar as the everyday first basemen, is contributing in the lead-off spot with an OBP of .344. While it could be asked why a plate to wall power hitter like Thames is your lead-off man, it is hard to argue with Thames’ ability to get aboard.

One move that could be interesting would be to deal a hopefully healthy Thames in a package trade to gain some needed help in the infield, possibly for assistance at catcher. While this isn’t an extremely likely outcome, it is always fun to toy around with these ideas as the trade deadline approaches.

As far as the Brewers’ outfield defensive play, fans have grown accustomed to Yelich, Cain, Broxton, and Braun making circus catches look elementary. Their ability to continue playing athletically intelligent baseball for the remainder of the season will assist a pitching department that has come back down to earth in the last few weeks. Broxton alone has made an impact in helping the pitching staff since being recalled in late June, robbing two would be home runs from opposing teams since then. Nothing makes a pitcher happier than a teammate well over 300 feet away bailing him out on a pitching mistake. Every member of this Brewers’ team has contributed, and will need to continue to contribute to this team effort of playing lock down defense with a “team first” mentality. While the pitching has been electric, it never hurts to have a rotating array of solid ballers shutting down the green space beyond the baseline.

2018 has seen a major shift, with a Brewers’ outfield discussion able to progress for this long without a sizable piece being about Ryan Braun. While Braun continues to be a valuable veteran asset, players like Broxton have rotated and filled holes nicely during Braun’s injury absences. Having Braun well rested and healthy could prove to be a great option for later this season to help the team push into the playoff race and hopefully deep into those playoffs come October. Domingo Santana’s name on a depth chart is also a nice little insurance piece should any of these starters need some midseason down time.

We start the week with the outfield, not because great work must be done, but because they will continue to be an important piece in the team’s hope to get into the 2018 postseason. We wish Jesus Aguilar the best of luck tonight, and a team wide bode of good luck tomorrow for the All-Star game as the team uses this time to rearm in an attempt to come out of the break swinging (and fielding). We’ll see you tomorrow for Part II of ‘Making the Postseason’.

-All stats via mlb.com

The Brewers Approach to the Plate in the First Half

The Brewers approach at the plate has been one key ingredient within the Brewer’s success the first half of the season – prior to the recent struggles. They have looked like a different team in the box compared to years past. Over the first half I have seen previous “free swingers” tone it down in the box allowing them to get deeper into counts. Two big keys have been the amount of pitches per at bat and two out RBI’s. There are many more outstanding numbers pertaining to their approach at the plate, but these two are the headliners.

 

Pitches Seen Per At-Bat

This is something so important, it is the best way to quickly get into a opposing team’s bullpen. This has become a team strength. The team average is 4.43 pitches per at-bat. If every Brewer hitter in the lineup takes four pitches in each of their at-bats and the pitcher goes through the lineup three times, the pitcher throws 108 pitches. 108 pitches will usually spell “game-over” for an average starting pitcher. Therefore, getting into their bullpen quicker.

 

If this pattern is followed in a three game series, it may not impact the bullpen in the first game, but the bullpen wears over the series. Pitches seen per at-bat may seem ridiculous to track, but it can make all the difference, and it for sure has in the first half.

Team Leaders (100+ AB)

Name Avg. Pitches seen per AB
Jesus Aguilar 5.02
Travis Shaw 4.81
Lorenzo Cain 4.77

 

Two Out RBI’s

This is something that this Brewers team has done so incredibly well. Nearly 34% of the team’s RBI’s this season have come with two outs with men in scoring position. This has not only come from the top of the lineup, but also from the bottom.

 

This goes into the character of the team. Many have said that with this team, “you have to play all 27 outs”. You also have to say that you must play all three outs per inning.

Team Leaders (RBi’s with men in scoring position)

Name RBI’s
Ryan Braun 20
Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw 16
Jesus Aguilar 15

 

This team continues to grind out at-bats into deep counts as well as continue to compete with two outs – even through the recent struggles. This in the first half have helped the Brewers become a dangerous team. Continuing to do these things in the second half, with the potential of adding another bat, this team is going to be really fun to watch.