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Wednesday, December 11th 2019
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Brewers Begin Offseason Overhaul with Chase Anderson

What is sure to be a busy winter for the Milwaukee Brewers got off to a hot start on Monday as David Stearns shipped starting pitcher Chase Anderson to the Toronto Blue Jays. In exchange, the Crew received minor league first baseman/outfielder Chad Spanberger.

The Brewers faced a crossroads decision with Anderson: pick up an option for 2020 worth $8.5 million, or move on. Based on reports following the move, it appears that the Brewers were planning on declining the option, making the addition of Spanberger via trade a favorable alternative to simply letting Anderson walk.

The decision to trade Anderson seems surprising at first when considering how thin the Brewers’ starting rotation became in 2019. The only pitchers returning who are solidified in their rotation spots seem to Brandon Woodruff and Zach Davies, with Adrian Houser potentially joining that list. However, it is worth noting that Chase Anderson did not exactly function at a true “starter” capacity, as he often was pulled prior to finishing five innings (he averaged just over 4 and 2/3 innings pitched in games he started). The front office likely determined $8.5 million was not needed to fill that role.

Nevertheless, Anderson acted as a consistent piece of a rotation that often found itself in various forms of disarray during his four years in Milwaukee. Highlighted by an outstanding 2017 season that saw him spin a 2.74 ERA, Anderson provided some semblance of stability to the Crew’s starting pitching corps, making at least 25 starts every season and hitting the 30 mark twice.

In return for Anderson, the Brewers receive Chad Spanberger. Drafted in the 6th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Spanberger is noted as having excellent raw power in nearly every scouting report you can find. He flashed it in each of his first two minor league seasons, posting a .294/.368/.617 line in 2017 and .315/.363/.579 in 2018. The jump to Double-A in 2019 proved to be his first challenge, as his numbers declined to a more pedestrian .237/.308/.399 with just 13 home runs.

Spanberger offers an upper-level power bat to the Brewers’ minor-league system. He could potentially contribute in 2020 at a first base position that is currently lacking an obvious starter.

With this trade in the books, look for David Stearns to begin circling the starting pitching market, as few internal options exist that are major-league caliber.

To Be Contenders, The Brewers Need Starting Pitching

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The Milwaukee Brewers posses one of the best offenses in baseball. They also boast one of the best bullpens in baseball, headlined by National League Reliever of the Year, Josh Hader. Both of these things are necessities for a championship team, but there is a part that the Brewers are missing, starters. Not just any starters, aces. Pitchers who dominate every time they step on the mound. The Brewers do have some very fine starting pitchers in Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff, but they are not what you would call aces. When they take the mound one does not have certainty that they will go at least six innings and give up three or less runs. The Milwaukee Brewers are so close to becoming the team Brewers fans have craved for years, and quality starting pitching is surely the answer they need.

With one of the lowest budgets in Major League Baseball, it is difficult to entice big name pitchers to Milwaukee. The Brewers did it with CC Sabathia in 2008, but it was only for a single season, as the Brewers could not afford to pay him for multiple years. The Brewers have proved they are a playoff contention team over the past couple seasons and that could result in expensive pitchers being willing to take a pay cut in order to join Milwaukee. There are quite a few starting pitchers who will be free agents in the 2019/20 off-season and the Brewers must sign at least one of them. Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants is the most glaring option. Having played for one of the worst teams in baseball this past season, Bumgarner was still able to post an ERA under four, struck out over 200 batters, and had a WHIP of 1.127. Bumgarner also has loads of postseason experience, which for the Brewers would be immense. He is now 30 years old which means he will also be relatively inexpensive. His $11 million salary is half that of the Boston Red Sox’s Rick Porcello as well as the Chicago Cubs’ Cole Hamels, two other big name free agents this off-season.

The biggest name in free agency this year, with respect to pitchers, is undoubtedly the Houston Astros’s Gerrit Cole. Cole is the front-runner for this years A.L. Cy Young award with an ERA of 2.50, over 300 strikeouts, and an outrageously low WHIP of 0.895. The Brewers would be lucky to grab him, with his current salary at a measly $13.5 million this year, but with the way he pitched for the Astros this season, his salary is unlikely to remain that low. If the Brewers were to splurge on signing him, they would be forced to regress in other areas and that is something they can not afford to do to remain competitive. 

The last viable option remaining is the New York Mets’ Zach Wheeler. He had a tough start to the 2019 season but improved vastly as the season progressed. Like Bumgarner, Wheeler is 30 years old but is much less known than his Giants counterpart. This bit of anonymity could help the Brewers land Wheeler. He is by far the cheapest option of the top pitching free agents this year, with a salary a shade under $6 million. Although an ERA under four and WHIP of 1.259 isn’t as impressive as the aforementioned pitchers, being able to pitch behind the Brewers offense may allow more room for error.

There are plenty of pitching options for the Brewers this offseason, but the ability to sign them remains to be seen. With one of the smallest markets and budgets in baseball, the Brewers will need to convince potential signers that it is about winning, and not money. But in today’s climate, that may not be so easy. If the Brewers are to become the team they have the potential to be, they must acquire proven, quality starting pitching.

Craig Counsell Changed Baseball, Maybe Not For The Better, But For Always

It is impossible to have success in baseball without great pitching. Look at how the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals reached the World Series this year. Great pitching from both teams includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Gerritt Cole, and Stephen Strasburg, all aces on their respective pitching staffs. While aces of each pitching staff are vital to their team’s success, the backbone is their bullpen. Moreover, it is how each bullpen is used by their respective managers. Bullpens are now more vital than ever in today’s game, and it is largely due in part to one manager in particular. 

2018 was a great year to be a Brewers fan. An incredible run after the All-Star break catapulted them to playoff contention. It was at the beginning of those playoffs that manager Craig Counsell started to change how baseball was to be played. Teams must widdle their roster down from 40 players during the regular season to 25 before the first pitch of the postseason. Traditionally, managers would keep nine pitchers (3-4 starters and 5-6 relief pitchers). Craig Counsell decided, seeing that his bullpen was the best part of his team, to keep eleven pitchers. Still, he only kept three true starters. This may not seem like a big change, but this setup allowed Counsell to change how he was going to manage games.

There is a saying in baseball, “Every team wins 54 games, every team loses 54 games, it’s what you do with the other 54 that counts”. In the playoffs, every game matters. Nobody looks at how you win, only that you did. With this in mind, Craig Counsell changed the game of baseball, maybe not for the better, but for always. The Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs in the one-game playoff for the NL Central Division title and cruised past the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series. Next up was the National League’s best, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Loaded with great hitting and great pitching, the Dodgers were clear favorites on paper. But the game is not played on paper, and Counsell took what weapons he had and attempted to use them to their fullest. Wade Miley, a left-handed pitcher started for the Brewers in Game 5. In turn, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts comprised his lineup of mostly right-handed hitters. Wade Miley pitched to leadoff hitter Cody Bellinger (the one left-handed hitter in that lineup), walked him, then proceeded to be pulled by Counsell. Now the Dodgers had set their lineup to face a left-handed pitcher for 5 plus innings, instead they were forced to face right-handed pitching for possibly the remainder of the game. While this gamble and trickery by Counsell did not pay off, it did open the door to a different way for baseball to be played, and more importantly, managed.

Flash forward to the 2019 ALCS between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. Game 2 of the series stayed 2-2 until the 11th inning when the Astros managed to win. A 2-2 game suggests the starting pitchers had done a great job, and gone deep into the ballgame. Instead, the Yankees used nine pitchers over those 11 innings. Only three pitchers pitched more than a single inning. Yankees manager Aaron Boone played the numbers with each pitcher depending on the batter they were facing. Managing the game in a way that has become the norm, especially for playoff baseball. And this is in large part due to the way Craig Counsell micromanaged the Brewers 2018 NLDS. 

I may have a sentiment towards “old school” baseball, when teams still bunted, when hit and run was such an effective weapon, and when starting pitchers were only pulled if they were having a terrible game. Pitching has always been one of the most integral parts of baseball, but with how Craig Counsell and the 2018 Brewers played out their playoff run, the use of pitching has become so different, and so effective in managers eyes, that the game of baseball will never be the same again. 

Former Brewer, C.C. Sabathia, Officially Retires

C.C. Sabathia officially retired on Monday, October 21st after the New York Yankees were eliminated from the 2019 Postseason. Sabathia played in the league for 19 years and pitched in 561 games. He was voted into 6 All-Star games and won the 2007 Cy Young Award in a tight race against John Lackey and Josh Beckett. Sabathia ended his career with a record of 251-161 and an ERA of 3.74. He pitched an impressive 3.577.1 innings and had 3,093 strikeouts. Sabathia has a long and dominant resume that should surely put him in the Hall of Fame when the time comes. 

As I stated before, C.C. Sabathia pitched in 561 career games and unbeknownst to some people out of the state of Wisconsin, 17 of those games (3%) came with the Brewers. However, Sabathia left a legacy that may never be matched not only in Milwaukee but throughout the entire MLB. 

The Brewers traded for C.C. Sabathia on July 7th when they were 3.5 games back in the NL Central and in the middle of a tight Wild Card race. They sent four prospects, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta, and Michael Brantley to the Indians in exchange for the big righty. 

For the Brewers, C.C. Sabathia was nothing short of amazing. He put on one of the greatest pitching performances the league has ever seen. He was so good that some people even consider Sabathia one of the greatest Brewer pitchers of all-time even though he only pitched in 17 games. In those 17 games, Sabathia threw 130.2 innings and had an unreal ERA of 1.65. He had a remarkable 7 complete games which means 41% of his starts in Milwaukee were complete games and 3 of those were shutouts. Both of those numbers led the entire National League. Sabathia also had 128 strikeouts and a dominant WHIP of 1.003. The Brewers were 14-3 in the games C.C. started. His numbers were good enough to get him into the top six of both NL Cy Young and NL MVP voting. 

Sabathia’s best stretch in his time with Milwaukee was during his last three starts. The Brewers needed every win that they could get to stay in the playoffs and they ran with Sabathia. His last three outings were all on three days rest, something that would be unheard of in today’s game, and Sabathia threw 21.2 innings with an ERA of 0.83. It’s an understatement to say without C.C. Sabathia the Milwaukee Brewers would not have made the 2008 Postseason and ended their 25-year playoff drought. 

Sabathia’s run in 2008 was a perfect example of incredible pitching to go along with incredible selflessness. C.C. knew that he was going to get a big paycheck in the offseason but he pitched for the Brewers like he didn’t care. He pitched on three, four days, rest knowing the long term risks. However, Sabathia acted the way every superstar pitcher should act and had the attitude of just give me the damn ball and let me pitch. He was the definition of a true workhorse. 

After the Brewers, Sabathia signed a 7-year, $161 million deal with the New York Yankees. Even when this happened, Brewer fans weren’t upset, they knew Sabathia was a rental, but they were still overjoyed with what #52 brought to the team. 

The 2008 C.C. Sabathia run was one of best the moments in the history of baseball and we here at Cream City Central are extremely grateful to have experienced that. Congratulations on an incredible career C.C. and good luck on all of your future endeavors. 

Craig Counsell is the best in the business

We are used to seeing the baby faced manager make moves that seem odd at the time, but play out perfectly. That’s his specialty. He has created a name for himself by taking a small market team, and having them play like the big boys. Every move is a combination of gut and strong analytics. His ability to push all the right buttons and create a winning environment in the clubhouse, makes him one of the best in the game. 

  The day usually starts when the lineup for the night gets pushed out around 3 hours before game time. There are days when it seems somewhat “normal” for the Brewers and then there are the days when Grandal is leading off. You first question everything, how is this very slow catcher leading off in the major leagues? However, when game time rolls around you are amazed by how well it works out. All of a sudden in the first inning you automatically have a guy on base with no outs, almost every time. 

The real navigation happened this year when Counsell has to figure out what to do with two previous sluggers. The anomaly of Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar. It becomes a debate of maybe if you give them just one more start they will get on track, or the pitcher they are facing tonight is the perfect matchup for them. A constant discussion on top of that, is making sure Ryan Braun has enough off days to get through the season, and whatever leads after. Then in September, arguably the most competitive month of the season, Counsel is faced with losing his slugger Christian Yelich. It’s no secret either, that Yelich carries the team offensively.

Then you see the starter for the night. Any fan of any other team thinks, if we can get six to seven quality innings out of this dude we should be good to go. However you are a Brewers fan, so you think, if we can get four to five innings with less than three runs we are good to go. The stats prove it too, only Jordan Lyles, Brandon Woodruff, and Zach Davies averaged over five innings of work, and none over six. There was only 19 games this year where a pitcher threw over 100 pitches, and none over 120. In an 18 game set to finish off the season there was only twice where a pitcher went over five innings. Craig Counsel legitimately bullpened his way through September, going 15-3 in that 18 game set. 

Speaking of the bullpen, out of 236 total times a relief pitcher came out, 181 times he ended up pitching more than three outs. Only 29% of inherited runners scored while in relief. These numbers for pitching are insane considering Counsell had a fallout of Corbin Burnes, a somewhat fallout of Freddy Peralta, only having one “electric dude” (who also had his struggles), and Jimmy Nelson’s return not being as smooth as thought. Through all of those roadblocks, the 2019 season was pretty smooth because of Counsel’s last skill.

Craig Counsell’s ability to have a winning feel in the clubhouse is incredible. All the players buy into what he talks about. Through the downs of the season when there was reason to worry, they never wavered. Everyone on the team still enjoyed coming in everyday, hanging out with their brothers, and playing the children’s game. They had the perfect balance of being down after a hard loss, but coming in the next day with a clean slate. That was shown day in and day out with homerun celebrations, clubhouse shenanigans, showing some love, and so much more. All of this starts from the top in Counsell, and it shows, even if he only cracks a smile every now and then.

At the end of the season, what do you get after all this? Definitely not the end goal, and the season ended much earlier than wanted. At the same time however, you have a team that pushed through all the naysayers. Who played in the Wild Card game, when they had no business when looking at the standings three weeks before. Who rallied behind losing their best guy, and crushed September. That’s what you got, five and a half months of meaningful baseball. 

What Craig Counsell has done in the few years he’s been leading the Brewers, has been magical. He has brought excitement back to Milwaukee about baseball, and this year was no different. I could care less about end of the season awards, but if Craig Counsell does not get awarded Manager of the Year, the award needs to be canceled. 

Needless to say Couns is one of the best in the business and should be recognized for that. He has changed the way to look at how a baseball game is played, and used it to his advantage.

Assessing the Brewers options at SS for 2020

It’s no secret Orlando Arcia hasn’t quite lived up to the top prospect status he once claimed. He has had back-to-back bad seasons that even saw him land in AAA for a chunk of 2018. However, we’ve also seen a solid version of Orlando Arcia back in 2017. The Brewers have a tough choice staring them down this offseason regarding Arcia. They will have to decide whether they will tender him a new contract and hand him the shortstop keys once again, or they will non-tender him and move on.  

Keeping Orlando Arcia

               Moving on from a 25-year-old would be tough, especially when you consider the season, he had in 2017. Arcia had an OPS of .731 and showed everyone what a slick fielder he is and could be in the future. However, Arcia has posted a negative WAR these last 2 seasons per Fangraphs. He hit a low this year being the league’s worst qualified hitter. He had a league low in wRC+ of 61 and was also last in OPS (.633). Orlando also saw a dip in defensive production he was 10th among shortstops in errors with 14. He’s also in-line for a raise being arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. Arcia trending in the wrong direction is what’s put the Brewers into this situation. He can still turn this around and be the player Brewer fans have always hoped for. Again, he’s only 25 and some young players take a few years to put it all together. Justin Turner posted an OPS under .700 in 301 games with the Mets and only 8 homeruns. He then changed his swing and became a hitter that has had his OPS consistently above .800. Jose Bautista was just an average MLB player before making minor changes to his swing and changing his approach turned him into an MVP candidate. These are just a couple of examples of why it’s dangerous to give up on players.

Bringing in a Free Agent

               The free agent class at Shortstop isn’t vast, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some tempting options here. The first option is Didi Gregorius. Gregorius has had 20 or more homeruns in 3 of the last 4 years. The exception being this season, but that’s due to the fact he only played 82 games while recovering from Tommy John’s surgery. Didi still managed to hit 16 this year despite missing that many games. He is a pure pull hitter and would benefit from playing half his games at Miller Park just like Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, and Travis Shaw all have.

               The next is Jose Iglesias who the Brewers were rumored to be interested in that offseason. Iglesias ended up signing a minor league contract with the Reds. He ended up making the big-league club out of Spring Training and played in 146 games for the Reds this season. He played solid defense all season collecting only 9 errors. Iglesias is also a contact hitter, striking out only 13.2% of the time this is 6.8% less than Orlando Arcia did last season.  Iglesias posted a WAR of 1.6 according to Fangraphs.

               Finally, we have Freddy Galvis. Galvis started the season with the Blue Jays after signing a one-year contract in the offseason. He played 115 games for the Blue Jays. The switch-hitting shortstop hit 18 homeruns for the Blue Jays in that span. However, with the Blue Jays opting to go young Galvis was placed on waivers and claimed by the Reds in August. In 32 games with the Reds Galvis played both short and 2nd base. Galvis is strikeout prone posting a 24.6 % rate. Galvis is known however more for his glove. He only committed 6 errors in 110 games at shortstop. He was also a Gold Glove finalist in 2018 as the shortstop of the San Diego Padres.

 Acquiring a SS via Trade

               This option is made difficult to think of and see happen. Players like Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story may be too tough to pry away for their current teams based on the status of the Brewers farm system. The rest of teams that may sell it’s tough to find a match. Teams like Seattle, Toronto, and Miami have their shortstops of the future and won’t be moving on anytime soon. However, with David Stearns you never know what he has up his sleeve or who he sees as undervalued and snaps up for cheap.

Internal Options

               Finally, we look at options within the organization. After trading Mauricio Dubon and then removing Hernan Perez from the 40-man roster this looks like the least likely option of the 4. The Brewers do have Tyler Saladino and Cory Spangenberg as options. However, both are arbitration eligible and it’s unknown if the Brewers with even tender them contracts. Finally, Brice Turang is nowhere near ready for the majors and will likely start the year in High-A where he finished this last season. 

               The Brewers have been too good these last 2 seasons to be held back so much at a particular position. David Stearns may have to get creative if he wants to find a star at the position, but there are also quality options that could be huge upgrades for cheap as well. The time is now to find a more productive Shortstop. Whether they believe that shortstop is a more mature and improved Orlando Arcia, or an outside option remains to be seen.

 

 

              

 

The Brewers Should Target Julio Teheran

It’s safe to say Brandon Woodruff will be the Brewers number one pitcher in 2020 but Milwaukee has yet to find a clear number two. Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, and Hyun Jin-Ryu, will get all of the attention from the media leaving a dark horse out of Atlanta behind. That player is starting pitcher, Julio Teheran. 

Teheran bursted onto the scene in 2013 as a 22-year-old when he went 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 185.2 innings pitched. He also had 170 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.174. He finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year voting that year while the late great Jose Fernandez took home the award. Teheran’s best season of his career came just one year later in 2014 when he had a 2.89 ERA in 221.0 innings with 186 strikeouts and an elite WHIP of 1.081. In 2014, he earned his first out of two All-Star births. Even though 2014 was the best season of his career, Teheran has still managed to be a consistent and solid starting pitcher in the MLB. Since 2014, he has started 159 games and has a respectable ERA of 3.90. Last season, he started 33 games and had a 3.81 ERA in 174.2 innings. His best stretch of 2019 started on May 5th and went through June 13th. In that span, Teheran made 8 starts, threw 44.2 innings and had an ERA of just 0.81. Opponents were batting just .137 against the righty and the Braves were 7-1 in the games he started. 

Throughout his career, Teheran has pitched in 9 seasons and has a 77-73 record with a career ERA of 3.67. What’s most impressive about his career is the fact that he’s the definition of a workhorse. Since he became a full-time starter in 2013, Teheran has averaged about 32 starts per season and about 191 innings pitched. He’s a guy that can grind through games and eat up innings. His go-to pitch is a hard, low 90s sinker that is on par with some of the best in baseball. He also throws a low 90s fastball, low 80s slider, mid 80s changeup, and a mid 70s curve. Teheran is able to throw all 5 pitches for strikes along with a very “herky-jerky” delivery which makes him a very tough pitcher to get a feel for. 

If the Brewers want to sign Julio Teheran, which they should, they will have to wait and see what the Braves do with him first. Atlanta has the option to keep him for $12 million this upcoming season but it doesn’t look like they are going to pay it. Teheran used to be the Braves ace but now he is their number three or four pitcher behind Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, and Dallas Kuechel. $12 million is a steep price to pay for a guy the Braves put in the bullpen during the postseason. 

If and when Julio Teheran becomes a free agent, the Brewers should be all over the phones contacting his agent. Teheran can give the Brewers an established, veteran pitcher that can eat up a lot of innings and take the pressure of their young bullpen. Instead of trying to get the most out of guys like Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, and Jimmy Nelson, who had a combined ERA of 7.02 last season, Teheran can seamlessly slide into the rotation and be a great fit as the number two behind Brandon Woodruff. To sign him, the Brewers would most likely have to give him the money that they would use to sign Jordan Lyles and Gio Gonzalez but Teheran is worth it. The Brewers could sign him to a 2-3 year deal while they are in their window of being postseason contenders. 

A starting rotation in 2020 of Woodruff, Teheran, Zach Davies, Adrian Houser, and Chase Anderson already looks a lot better than any combination Milwaukee rolled out in 2019. 

The Milwaukee Brewers Top 5 Moments of 2019

A Brewers’ season filled with dramatic highs and sobering lows came to an end on Tuesday with a heartbreaking loss in the NL Wild Card game. Despite that, the Crew provided countless memories this season that got fans up on their feet and cheering in elation. Here are the top 5 moments of the Brewers’ 2019 run to the playoffs.

  1. Lorenzo Cain brings one back in Colorado

With a chance to win the NL Central in reach, the Brewers led the Colorado Rockies 2-0 in the bottom of the 7th when Garrett Hampson hit a deep fly ball to center field. Lorenzo Cain raced back to the wall, took a leap, and brought back a home run in what could ultimately be the catch of the year. Although the Brewers ended up losing the game, this catch had that “WOW” factor that will make it stick in fans’ memories for a long, long time.

  1. Christian Yelich walks off the Cubs

The first of two walkoffs against the Cubs on this list, this moment proved pivotal in kickstarting the Brewers’ run to a playoff berth. Sitting four games back of the Chicago Cubs and the second wild card spot entering the day, the Brewers needed to string together some wins to make progress in the hunt. The Crew entered the bottom of the ninth having tied the game in the previous inning on a Yasmani Grandal home run. Tyler Austin reached on an infield error, but the game looked like it could be headed to extra innings after Trent Grisham and Yasmani Grandal failed to reach base. Christian Yelich had other ideas, as he stroked a two-out double past a diving Kyle Schwarber, scoring Austin from first base and causing Miller Park to erupt.

  1. Keston Hiura walks off the Cubs

In this matchup, the Brewers entered the game trailing the Cubs by one game in the wild card race. With the July trade deadline looming just days away, the Brewers needed to cement their status as contenders in order to justify the deadline moves they would go on to make. This game was a fight all the way through. The Crew battled their way back into it by erasing a two-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a solo home run from Ben Gamel and an RBI-double from Keston Hiura. The game then went on to extras, with the Cubs taking the lead in the top of the tenth after Albert Almora went deep. With closer Craig Kimbrel on to close the game in the bottom of the inning, Christian Yelich tied the game with a bomb to left center field. After a Tyler Saladino walk put the winning run on base, Keston Hiura decided it was time to go home and hit an absolute laser of a line drive over the right field wall. Hiura’s reaction while rounding the bases will be a classic Brewers’ moment for years to come.

  1. Lorenzo Cain saves Opening Day with a game-ending home run robbery

Opening Day had a playoff game vibe as fans clung to memories of the Brewers’ run to Game 7 of the NLCS in 2018. This game had a little bit of all that made 2018 magical, as Christian Yelich hit a three run homer to give the Brewers an early lead, weird stuff happened (how else do you describe a Jhoulys Chacin home run?), and Josh Hader came on for a two-inning save. Down to the final out needed to send the fans home happy, Jose Martinez sent a high fly ball to right-center field that looked to be trouble. Lorenzo Cain raced back to wall, leaped, and said, “Not today”, pulling back what would’ve been a game-tying home run. It was the perfect possible ending to Opening Day.

  1. Ryan Braun – “The St. Louis Slam”

The Brewers sat one game back of the Cubs for the second wild card slot entering this pivotal series finale against the Cardinals. Trailing 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Braun strode to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. After working his way to a full count, he went full vintage September Braun, launching a grand slam over the deep left center field wall. It was the most defining moment of the Brewers September surge, one that I would like to formally dub “The St. Louis Slam”. This one will go down as one of Braun’s most iconic moments, along with his grand slam against the Pirates in September of 2008 and his division-clinching home run off of Miller Park’s center field scoreboard against the Marlins in 2011.

The Brewers won’t give up on Josh Hader

Let’s get one thing clear, Josh Hader has the potential to be one of the greatest pitchers in Brewer franchise history. Without Josh Hader, the Brewers would not have been close to being in the playoffs in 2018 or 2019. People seem to forget that Hader is only 25-years-old and with young pitchers comes learning curves. 

The reason I am writing this article is because of the unnecessary hate Josh Hader has been getting for his blown save in the NL Wild Card game. I’ve read things on social media like, “Hader can get the hell out of Milwaukee” and “I hope the Brewers trade Hader. He’s worthless.” These are the same fans who roasted Jeremy Jeffress for what he did in the 2018 Postseason without remembering he was the main reason they were in that position in the first place.

Now I’m on the side where I believe Counsell should have started Drew Pomeranz in the eighth and saw how it went before bringing in Hader but that’s not what happened and no amount of complaining will change that. For fans to see what Hader did and call for his head, that’s irrational. 

Statistically, Counsell made the correct decision bringing Hader in to pitch the eighth in the biggest game of the season. During the regular season, Hader pitched 2 or more innings in a game 14 times and only gave up a combined 3 earned runs. Also, when Hader was in the 2-out bases loaded jam with left-handed, Juan Soto, at the plate, Counsell had the lefty on lefty matchup that any manager would want. Soto ended up rocking a single which was a statistical anomaly in its own right. Josh Hader faced 66 left handed batter during the season and only gave up a single to ONE of them until Juan Soto delivered for the Nationals. If you’re looking at the numbers objectively, Counsell made the correct move by pitching Hader and leaving him in. Josh Hader was the best pitcher on the Brewers during the 2019 season and I’m okay living or dying with him. 

I know a lot of people have issues with Josh Hader’s blown save numbers, but that’s a problem every fan base has. For example, Josh Hader has had 13 blown saves in his first 3 seasons in the big leagues. To put that number in perspective, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, had 17 blown saves in his first three seasons as a full-time reliever. Francisco Rodriguez had 16, Lee Smith had 14, and Trevor Hoffman tied Josh Hader in blown saves after his first three years with 13. It just goes to show that even the greatest closers the game has ever seen have taken a few years to really become dominant. 

Also, it’s not like Hader hadn’t improved in 2019 after his unreal 2018 season. His 2019 numbers were very similar except his SO9 went up and his WHIP went down. He only had 2 more blown saves in 2019 on far more save opportunities. When it comes to the rest of the league in 2019, Josh Hader tied New York’s, Aroldis Chapman, for 3rd in the entire league in saves only behind Roberto Osuna and Kirby Yates. 

When it comes to the MLB’s closers, Josh Hader is already one of the best. A few bad outings, even though they were huge games, shouldn’t be the end all be all for his time in Milwaukee as the closer. I can think of 29 other teams who would be more than happy to take him off our hands which means it would be idiotic to get rid of him. Brewer fans will need to move on from the Wild Card game and let Hader develop into the lights out closer he’s going to be whether that comes with growing pains or not. 

5 Things the Brewers Must Do This Offseason

     It was another successful season for Milwaukee Brewers baseball, even if it ended with heartbreak. The team showed resiliency and fight throughout the entire 162-game schedule. If the team takes each of these five steps, they will be set up for another pennant run in 2020 and beyond.

  1.       Re-Sign Yasmani Grandal

In his first season as a Brewer, Yasmani Grandal had a profound offensive impact at the catcher position that Milwaukee has not had since Jonathan Lucroy. He set franchise records for home runs as a catcher (28) and walks (109). Aside from his prowess at the plate, Grandal proved to be a solid game-manager and pitch-framer. He has a $16M mutual option with Milwaukee for the 2020 season and it is likely that the two sides will be able to come to terms on a deal that would keep Yaz a Brewer for at least another few years.

 

  1.       Develop Josh Hader’s Pitch Arsenal

2019 Josh Hader, though dominant at times, was exposed for his lack of a second reliable pitch on too many occasions, with the most crucial instance being in the Wild Card Game where his lack of command was the Brewers’ downfall in a previously well-executed team performance. His heater can be one of the most unhittable pitches in all of baseball, but it becomes predictable without the presence of a slider to pair with it. Milwaukee’s coaching staff will need to come up with a game plan that will develop Hader’s slider as an effective secondary threat to his fastball, which will reduce the number blown saves (7 in 2019) and longballs he gives up (15 in 2019) for the future. He is still just 25 years old, so there is ample reason to believe he will adapt and re-discover his dominance.

 

  1.       Determine the Future of Jimmy Nelson & Travis Shaw

If you watched Brewers baseball at all in 2019, you would have noticed the absence of any sort of production from Travis Shaw. Shaw, who was a vital piece of both the 2017 and 2018 Brewers simply could not find consistency at the plate this season, (.157 BA, 7HR) and the reason is unknown to himself and all others associated with the team. Decisions will have to be made as to whether a season as dismal as this one warrants a second chance.

As for Jimmy Nelson, unfortunately he has failed to re-gain his status as an all-star caliber starting pitcher ever since his shoulder injury in 2017. He could perhaps provide value as a relief pitcher if the Milwaukee front office decides he is worth the gamble based on his past performance. Given how classy and resilient Jimmy has been throughout his arduous rehab process, it is likely he will continue to be a part of the team in some capacity.

 

  1.       Bring back Jordan Lyles

Jordan Lyles was sensational in his time with Milwaukee in 2019 and was a huge part of why they were able to crawl out of third place and make the postseason. He went 7-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts for the Crew. Given the uncertainty that still surrounds the starting staff, bringing back Lyles as a steady, trustworthy presence every fifth day would do wonders for the team. Offering him a short-term deal would be a smart play for GM David Stearns.

  1.       Ensure the Full Recovery of Injured Players

Milwaukee was a banged-up team in 2019. Corey Knebel’s season ended before it began due to Tommy John surgery, and along the way the team dealt with injuries to key players, Zach Davies, Brandon Woodruff, Lorenzo Cain, and of course, the MVP Christian Yelich. Making sure each of these players is 100% healthy heading into the 2020 season will go a long way in the team’s quest to make the leap they want to make- to become a true World Series caliber team.