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Wednesday, April 24th 2019
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5 Takeaways from Brewers Pitching Thus Far

We are a little over a week into the Brewers 2019 season, and there has already been some interesting tactics from our fearless leader, Craig Counsell. We all heard it going in to the season, we need starting pitching, we need this or that, blah blah blah. But the Brewers went with the 3 young guys in the rotation with some vets in Jhoulys Chacin at the 1 spot, and Zach Davies (crazy to call him a vet now) at 5. Jimmy Nelson will take over one of those spots as soon as he is back to form, I am thinking at the 2 or even 1spot, but we know CC doesn’t really care where they fall during the season so who knows.

Regarding the bullpen, with Knebel done for the year, and Jeffress not healthy fans were calling for Kimbrel in 2 games The Crew brought in some new names in Alex Claudio and Alex Wilson, and we really don’t know their roles. Going into the Wilson acquisition, I figured he would be a spot guy/low tier guy, but I am already eating my words as he has a save on the books on a rest day from Hader.

Ok so what does all this mean? After watching the first week, I think there are some important take-aways for fans to expect to see this season.

1. Freddie Fastball gets better as the game goes on. This is no secret, the first inning issues, however it is worth noting his fastball speed as gone up throughout the game. In his gem of a start against the Reds, he went 8 deep striking out 11. But it is worth noting his fastball started out around 88-91 MPH, and he was gunning 95 in the 5th , all the way into the 8th inning. Now we can all draw our own conclusions here, is he not warming up enough? Not ready yet?Conditioning? But in my opinion, this will level out as he gets more starts, and he will get over those 1st inning jitters as he gains experience.

2. The Bullpen will be ok! Yes, we are missing some horses now, and one for the year, but Hader and gang is still one of the best pens in the league.  I was ready to donate cash to bring someone in after two games, but that’s baseball, the sky is always falling. However, I truly believe we will be ok with what we have. Hader is going to be a legit Cy Young candidate again, and with Chase Anderson and Junior Guerra figuring out their roles as the season progresses, we should be just fine in those bridge innings from starters to Hader/ Jeffress.

3. Corbin Burnes is nasty. The movement on his slider should not be legal when throwing 95, the pitch will be a meme this year when it fools a guy to his knees. The way he can attack hitters with the action on his pitches is going to be fun to watch, and he does it with confidence. In his start against the Cards, he had a third strike called low, and when he threw it, he walked off the mound. Jose Martinez, the batter, proceeded to stare down the “young pitcher” as if to
“Son” him. Burnes proceed to throw him a third strike on a swing and a miss, and gave him a little fist pump after. To me, this is the confidence a championship caliber team has all year long. We need that swagger, and confidence that we will be there at the end, not that we hope to be there.

4. Chacin is Mr. Consistent. For the most part, Chacin has been a career middle of the rotation guy who will get you roughly 6 innings, and have a season ERA around 3.0 Now the Brewers are asking him to be a bit more than that at the front of the rotation, but his performance remains the same. Chacin is a great guy to have on the team, he doesn’t seem to show much emotion, he is always in control of his at-bats. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do this year, but it looks like CC is always going to know what he’s going to get with Chacin, which is a great feeling for a manager, and fans to have.

5. Everyone is in! Junior Guerra, and Chase Anderson couldn’t have been happy with being demoted to the pen, but both have taken on their new roles positively. Chase is still going to have his home run issues, but it is great to see those guys pitching. We all know injuries are going to happen, so having those guys down there and ready when they get the call is fantastic! We have bullpen guys blowing up social media for their teammates, we have Suter being the fantastic human that he is, and we have a group that is in it together. Now we just need to see if they can put it all together on the field the way it seems in the locker room. Who knows what will happen the rest of the way, especially with the Brewers being tied to Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel at one time. But what I can say is what we have currently is going to be fun to watch, and with Craig Counsell at the controls, we can all take a deep breath, the Brewers pitching staff going to be
ok!

Here is to an exciting season moving forward! Go Brewers!

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Week One of Brewers Baseball Recapped

3/28- 3/31 vs STL

 

The opening week of the 2019 season was emblematic of the 2018 Brewers in a small sample. Josh Hader being untouchable in relief, Lorenzo Cain’s defensive heroics, and Christian Yelich’s flat out stupefying prowess at the plate were the storylines of the week, much like last season.

 

Yelich’s Stats: (1.531 OPS, 4 HR, 8 RBI, .531 OBP)

 

The first series against St. Louis as a whole showed some serious star-power from both clubs. For Milwaukee, it was reigning MVP Christian Yelich who carried the load, becoming the sixth player in MLB history to homer in each of his team’s first four games. To illustrate just how ridiculous he has been since last season, since August 1, 2018, 45.5% of Yelich’s fly balls have left the ballpark for home runs.

 

So much for any regression that may have been expected from Yelich. “Yeli” capped off a tremendous series with a walk-off double in game four that electrified the Miller Park Sunday crowd. Along with him, Mike Moustakas hit well, with two home runs, and Josh Hader was brilliant in the closer’s role. Hader threw an immaculate inning on Sunday to close the series out and did not surrender a baserunner in 3 appearances.

 

8-hole hitter Orlando Arcia and newcomer Yasmani Grandal struggled offensively in this series for Milwaukee, going a combined 0-25 from the plate, but Grandal has established himself as one of the better offensive catchers in baseball over the past few seasons, and Orlando Arcia is one full season removed from hitting .277 with 15 home runs. Streaky hitters? Yes, but just one tough series is nothing to be too worried about going forward

 

The redbirds flexed their muscles this series at Miller Park as well, getting 4 home runs and 7 RBI from newly acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Needless to say it will not be fun for the Brewers to see Goldschmidt on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. Aside from Goldy, second baseman Kolten Wong had a strong series for St. Louis, going 8/14 (.571) from the plate and hitting 3 home runs. Offense via the home run ball was plentiful for the Cardinals this series, but simply an inability to come out on top in close game scenarios was their undoing, resulting in a 3-1 series win for Milwaukee

 

4/1-4/3 @ CIN

 

In a series that featured three one-run ball games, Milwaukee came out on top in all three to complete the three game sweep. In the series finale on Wednesday, 22-year-old Freddy Peralta carried the load in a game in a career performance where the offense was unable to provide any insurance after getting out to a 1-0 start. From start to finish, it was his best outing as a big leaguer and it was great to see Peralta oozing with confidence after a rough first start of the season back in Milwaukee.

 

Offensively, Jesus Aguilar was a key offensive contributor in this series, along with noted Reds-killer Ryan Braun, who had two hits, including the game-winning RBI in the first game of the series. Orlando Arcia also broke out of his early slump on Tuesday with a 3-run, opposite field home run for his first hit of the season. Look for the young shortstop to start to return to his 2018 postseason form in the near future. Confidence is everything for Arcia.

 

Given the close nature of this series, it is clear the Reds are in a better spot now than they were at this time last year. They may not have gotten any wins to show for it, but it is clear their pitching staff has improved alongside an already potent offense.

 

For Milwaukee, a 6-1 record is nothing to scoff at, however, five of their wins have been by just one run, and the other was by only two. The Crew can’t expect to come out on top in every close game this season, so it will be imperative to create more insurance runs late in games in order to limit the stress of the pitching staff. Also of note, Milwaukee has only committed one error in their first seven games, which is first in the NL. Sharp defense has been a key part of their success in nail-biter games. Keep up the good work, MKE.

 

Brewers 5 Cardinals 4

With 45,304 in attendance for Opening Day at Miller Park, Jhoulys Chacín would take the hill for his first time as the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Starter. Chacín would come out of the gates hot, striking out the side in the first inning. However, after successfully starting off the second inning with two outs, Chacín would walk his first batter. Kolten Wong drew blood first with his two-run home run, followed by a Harrison Bader solo shot.

Facing a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the second, Mike Moustakas would hit the Brewers first home run of the season off of a 1-2 count. After a three up three down third inning for the Cardinals, Milwaukee looked to take the first lead of the 2019 season. After an Orlando Arcia groundout, Jhoulys Chacín would single to left field, followed by a Lorenzo Cain single to center field. The reigning National League MVP would step up to the plate and start right where he left off. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Yelich would hammer a 413-foot, three run homerun, to center field giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead.

Bats on both sides would stay quiet until the bottom of the fifth inning, where Pitcher, Jhoulys Chacín would smash a 405-foot home run to left-center field giving the Brewers a 5-3 lead. After beginning the top of the sixth with a Goldschmidt walk and a Dejong strikeout, Counsell made his first call to the bullpen for Junior Guerra. After giving up a single to Marcell Ozuna, Guerra would settle down and get the final two outs of the inning.

The Brewers would go three up, three down in the sixth. In the top of the seventh Kolton Wong would hit his second home run of the day to right field, tightening the lead to 5-4. The Brewers scored zero runs in the seventh inning, though Eric Thames would hit a single as a pinch hitter.

Josh Hader would come in for relief of Junior Guerra in the eighth inning and proved once again he is a force to be reckoned with. Hader struck out the side, while consistently hitting 97-98 mph. In the bottom of the eighth, Christian Yelich walked and Ryan Braun singled, however, a double play and flyout would end the inning.

With Knebel and Jeffress both out with injuries, Counsell called Hader’s number again to get the last three outs. Josh would get Yadier Molina to flyout center field, followed by striking out Marcell Ozuna. With two outs in the ninth inning, Josh Hader would face pinch hitter Josè Martínez. (Before the at-bat, Martínez was 2-3 with a home run vs Josh Hader in his career.) After ball one, Hader threw a 94-mph fastball right down the plate to what looked to be a certain home run. However, Lorenzo Cain made a leaping catch at the warning track, much like the one in Game 2 of the NLCS in 2018, to seal the victory for Milwaukee. The Brewers will face the Cardinals in Game two of the four game series tomorrow at 7:10 CT.

Notables:

C. Yelich. 1-2, HR, 3RBI, 2BB, R

M. Moustakas 1-3, HR, RBI, R

J. Chacin W, 5.1 IP, 3H, 3ER, 7K, 2BB

J. Hader SV, 2 IP, 0H, 0ER, 4K, 0BB

Brewers Starting Rotation Outlook Heading Into 2019

In a move that shows how much the Brewers believe in their young and relatively inexperienced pitchers, it was announced that the Milwaukee Brewers will begin 2019 with a starting rotation consisting of these five righties in order: Jhoulys Chacin, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Zach Davies.

 

Jhoulys Chacin was one of the biggest steals of the offseason last year and was a vital part of the success of the 2018 Brewers. He started 35 games, finished with a 15-8 record and a 1.1 WHIP. He is certainly deserving of getting the ball on Opening Day this season. His steady presence and leadership in a rotation that is now very young will be more important than ever.

Evidently, Brewers management is convinced Freddy Peralta is ready to take the jump to the next level. There is no doubting the effectiveness of Freddy’s fastball when he is able to consistently locate it where he wants to. His opponent batting average in 2018 was exceptional, just .178, and he struck out 11 batters per 9 innings. Nearly all of Peralta’s problems are self-inflicted, and do not reflect his opponents’ ability to make hard, effective contact against him. He is still just 22 years old, so if he can gradually cut down on his walk rate, there is no limit to his potential as a starting pitcher in the MLB.

23-year-old Corbin Burnes was extremely effective as a relief pitcher during the latter portion of the 2018 season, (2.61 ERA) and given his success in that role, some Brewers fans couldn’t help but wonder if he would follow in the footsteps of Josh Hader and be designated as a bullpen contributor for the long-term. Instead he will toe the rubber for the third game of the season for Milwaukee against St. Louis, which will be his first career start. Out of the three young pitchers that make up the middle of the rotation, Corbin Burnes has the highest chance of becoming a household name by the end of this upcoming season, given his track record and success last season using an effective fastball and lethal wipeout slider as his two main pitches.

 

Brandon Woodruff is a bit of a late-bloomer compared to his youthful rotation counterparts, but at 26 years old he still has plenty of upside as a quality starting pitcher for years to come. Woodruff was lights out in the postseason for Milwaukee last year striking out 20 batters and only walking 3. In game one of the NLCS, he pitched 2 perfect innings and, in a moment Brewers faithful will not soon forget, he also hit a booming home run to center field off of MVP and 3-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. His evident hitting abilities aside, Woodruff projects as a long-term piece for the Milwaukee Brewers who is versatile enough to start or come out of the bullpen if need be.

 

To start the season, Zach Davies will round out the starting rotation, while Jimmy Nelson continues easing himself back into live at-bats. However, if Davies’ spring training struggles continue into the season and Jimmy Nelson looks to be back to his former self, I would not be shocked if Nelson supplants Davies in the rotation eventually.

 

Aside from those two, the Brewers still have Chase Anderson as an option as well. Anderson will begin the season out of the bullpen, but is a valid option for a spot-start if injury or ineffectiveness plague the rotation. Last season, Anderson was the most home run prone pitcher in the National League, leading to frustration among the fan base and eventually Anderson was not seen as trustworthy enough to make the postseason roster.

From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem like starting pitching may be a position of need for the Brewers, however, if it can stay healthy and consistent, it could end up being a strength of the overall roster and help Milwaukee keep pace in a very deep National League.

 

Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers’ Opening Day Roster

With Opening Day just around the corner, fans can taste baseball in the crisp spring air. In just nine days, the smells of hotdogs and brats will waft through the Miller Park grounds as the Brewers’ faithful eagerly await their club’s defense of the NL Central crown. As always, Opening Day will begin with the introduction of the team’s first 25-man roster. Who will toe that first base line at Miller Park on March 28th? Here’s my thoughts on the first iteration of the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers, with italics indicating I project them to make the Opening Day roster:

Catchers

The Locks: Yasmani Grandal, Manny Piña

The Candidates: Erik Kratz, Jacob Nottingham

Craig Counsell put all questions to rest regarding the catching situation at the start of spring training: Grandal would be the starter, and Piña the backup. That still appears to be the plan, barring an injury to either of those two. While Kratz has done everything in his power this spring to earn a roster spot, his .222/.250/.481 slash during spring training is likely not enough to convince Counsell into keeping a third catcher, especially given his love for positional versatility and an eight-man bullpen. Kratz has no minor-league options remaining, so he will need to pass through waivers to stay in the Brewers’ organization. If he is lost to another club, it should be considered a meaningful loss, as he is a clubhouse leader and a more than capable back-up should either Piña or Grandal get injured.

Nottingham will be optioned to Triple-A San Antonio, where he will continue his development as a prospect. His role will become much more important if Kratz is picked up by another team.

Infielders

The Locks: Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Mike Moustakas, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames

The Candidates: Tyler Saladino, Corey Spangenberg

The locks are all returning from last year’s club, with Aguilar-Moustakas-Arcia-Shaw being the starting unit. Perez is the Brewers indispensable super-utility man, as he can play all seven positions in the field. While the Brewers certainly prefer not to deploy him in center field, he can play there if needed, and his defense at each of the other six positions is at least average.

Thames, who many considered to be a trade candidate at the outset of the offseason, earns his roster spot as somewhat of a utility man in his own right, as he is predominantly a power-hitting first baseman but can play a passable left and right field. He has had a monster spring, and will form a semi-platoon at first base with Jesus Aguilar.

Saladino is nearly certain to not make the cut – he simply does not offer any difference-making qualities that warrant creating a spot for him on the roster. He will provide minor league depth in case an injury arises, with this being his final option year. Spangenberg on the other hand has a real shot to make the roster as a utility man, as he swings a left-handed bat and has displayed some positional versatility this spring. However, I think he will not start 2019 in the big leagues, losing out to an outfielder we will discuss shortly, though we will certainly see him in Milwaukee at some point this season.

Outfielders

The Locks: Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich

The Candidates: Ben Gamel

Braun, Cain, and Yelich form one of the elite outfield batteries in not just the National League, but all of Major League Baseball. Their individual success this season will be directly correlated to the team’s overall success.

Gamel is likely to be the last man to make the roster on the position-player side. In my opinion, it comes down to him and Spangenberg, with Gamel getting the nod due to him being a natural outfielder. Both Gamel and Spangenberg have swung the bat adequately in spring training (.758 OPS for Gamel/.783 OPS for Spangenberg), and Gamel checks two boxes by being a left-handed hitter and a capable defender at all three outfield positions.

However, if there is one spot we could see some Opening Day shenanigans similar to the Ji Man Choi situation last year, it would be here. If Stearns and Counsell feel for whatever reason that Spangenberg gives the Brewers a better chance to win on Opening Day than Gamel does, then they could simply have Spangenberg open on the MLB roster and option him down to the minors once he serves his purpose. It’s not likely, in my opinion, but it is within the realm of possibility.

Starting Rotation

The Locks: Jhoulys Chacin

The Candidates: Chase Anderson, Corbin Burnes, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff

The Brewers rotation was as wide-open as could be entering Spring Training, with the only 100% lock being Chacin. To sum up the rest of the group, Anderson and Davies struggled in 2018, Burnes and Peralta are the young hot-shot arms looking to stick, Woodruff is wedged between having more value as a reliever or as a starter, and Nelson is still rehabbing from surgery that took place in 2017. Let’s dissect that a little bit.

I expect the Brewers to give Davies a chance in the rotation to start the year, with Anderson being either demoted to the minors or sent to the bullpen. Both have experienced success in Brewers’ rotation in the past, but both have also struggled to ERAs that are over 7.00 this spring. Anderson has been working through an adjustment in his delivery, and I do not think the Brewers want to have that situation in their starting rotation until it is completely ironed out. Davies profiles as a back-end arm, so long as he can keep the Brewers in games and hold ERAs in the 4.20-4.50 range, he should be serviceable.

With the younger guys, I predict that Burnes, Peralta, and Woodruff will all earn rotation spots. The Brewers repeatedly stated last year that the plan for Burnes was to gain experience in the bullpen in 2018 and move to the rotation in 2019, and given the other options available to the Crew I see no reason for them to stray from this plan. He likely will combine moments of brilliance with moments of frustration in the first couple of months, but by the time the stretch run comes along I expect him to be a solid number-three starter.

Woodruff has looked much more polished this Spring and finished the year strong in 2018, so he is a sure bet to be in the rotation at this point. Peralta has showcased his electric stuff over spring training, and that he has a much higher ceiling than Anderson with a similar floor, I think he will earn the fifth rotation spot.

Unlike 2018, the Brewers start off 2019 by playing seven games in seven days, so there is no possibility for them to start the year with a four-man rotation.

Nelson is slated to continue his rehab by starting the year in Triple-A San Antonio. He has looked good this spring and is the closest thing the Brewers have on paper to being an ace, so once he is ready to go, he is certain to be inserted into the rotation.

Bullpen

The Locks: Matt Albers, Alex Claudio, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel

The Candidates: Chase AndersonJacob Barnes, Junior Guerra, Adrian Houser, Jay Jackson, Jake Petricka, Aaron Wilkerson, Taylor Williams

Disabled List: Jeremy Jeffress, Bobby Wahl

The bullpen picture is fairly straightforward at this point for the Brewers. Craig Counsell said that Albers will be on the Opening Day roster, betting on the possibility that his 2018 pre-arm injury performance will re-emerge in 2019. Hader, Knebel, and Claudio (acquired from the Rangers) will form a high-leverage trio that will hopefully welcome back Jeffress soon.

To fill out the four remaining spots, Barnes, Guerra, and Williams have the experience and past performance to have solid footing in making the roster. For the final spot, it comes down to Chase Anderson, some low-leverage arms (Wilkerson and Houser) and non-roster invitees Jake Petricka and Jay Jackson. I don’t think Petricka or Jackson will make the roster due to that necessitating their addition to the 40-man roster, and Houser and Wilkerson do not offer enough upside to justify a roster-spot over Anderson. While Anderson has the edge for the final spot in my opinion, the Brewers could instead opt to keep him in the minors to get him back on track as a starter. If he is put in the bullpen, it may be difficult to stretch him back out to being a starter this year, should he be needed in that role. He could provide good value as a long relief man if kept in the majors.

The bullpen is also the position group most likely to see an outside addition (usually via waivers) prior to Opening Day. We have seen this in each of the past three seasons with Carlos Torres (2016), Jared Hughes (2017), and Dan Jennings (2018). If David Stearns sees an arm on the waiver wire he deems more valuable than his in-house options, he will scoop that player up. An acquisition of this type will become even more likely if Corey Knebel ends up being placed on the disabled list with his elbow injury.

In addition, there have been reports that the Brewers are targeting Craig Kimbrel on the free agent market. Adding one of the top relievers in the game would put this group over the top, while also providing a more than adequate patch for the high-end talent lost to the rotation in Burnes and Woodruff.

In Conclusion

Based on my above analysis, this is the final projection for the Brewers’ Opening Day Roster:

Catchers (2) – Yasmani Grandal, Manny Piña

Infielders (6) – Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Mike Moustakas, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames

Outfielders (4) – Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Ben Gamel, Christian Yelich

Starting Pitchers (5) – Corbin Burnes, Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff

Relief Pitchers (8) – Matt Albers, Chase Anderson, Jacob Barnes, Alex Claudio, Junior Guerra, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Taylor Williams

Is Ryan Braun Primed for a Career Resurgence?

Take a step back to December 9th, 2011. The city of Milwaukee was brimming with baseball pride. During his fifth season with the Brewers, Ryan Braun had recently captured Milwaukee’s first MVP award since Robin Yount did so in 1989, and on the heels of a trip to the NLCS, things were looking bright for the Crew with Braun locked into a long-term extension.

Then, December 10th happened.

On that date, an Outside the Lines report was released implicating Braun as a PED-user, stating that he had tested positive for abnormally high levels of testosterone during the playoffs. Braun’s reputation took a nosedive, and after an outstanding 2012 season, his on-field performance experienced a decline as well.

After two injury-riddled campaigns in 2013 and 2014, Braun bounced back in a big way, accumulating 3.2 WAR in 2015 and 3.4 WAR in 2016 while slashing a combined .295/.361/518 over the two seasons. However, 2017 and 2018 were not as kind to Braun – he has posted a sub-2.0 WAR in both years, and saw large decreases in both his batting average and slugging percentage, as his cumulative stats dropped to .261/.325/.478.

Some of these struggles are surely due to Braun’s age. As an injury-prone player in his age 33 and 34 seasons, a decrease in production was to be expected. However, another part of the issue, especially in 2018, was more abstract – Braun seemingly was extremely unlucky.

I’m sure every fan who regularly watched the Brewers last season can remember at least a few instances of Braun hitting a ball right on the nose, only for it to be directly at a member of the defense. While these memories are a qualitative indicator of his “unluckiness”, there are quantitative measures that back it up. MLB’s “Statcast” tracks the velocity and launch angle of every batted ball, and from that data can determine what a player’s stats were expected to be over the course of a season based on his batted ball profile. We can compare these to Braun’s actual stats to see the extent of his “unluckiness”.

In 2018, the difference between Braun’s expected stats and his actual stats was stark to say the least. While he slashed .254/.313/.469, his expected line was .296/.355/.515. Essentially, Braun hit the ball like an all-star caliber player, but got results that would place him as an average regular.

Statcast also measures two statistics called wOBA and xwOBA, which stand for “weighted on-base average” and “expected weighted on-base average”. These statistics account for the true value of each offensive outcome (single, double, etc.) by using the “run values” for each, rather than counting simply by total bases. Given that a single is not actually worth half as much double as is currently represented in slugging percentage, wOBA accounts for that and gives a better indicator of actual offensive output by giving each event its proper value. Accordingly, xwOBA calculates what a player’s offensive output in this regard should have been given his batted ball profile (quality of contact). For Ryan Braun in 2018, he saw a huge negative gap between his expected and actual weighted-on base averages, further adding to the notion that he experienced bad luck. His xwOBA was .368, good for 30th best in the league, putting him in line with the actual 2018 performances of all-stars like Charlie Blackmon, Mitch Haniger, Javier Baez, and Francisco Lindor. The difference between his expected (.368) and actual (.330) performance was the eighth largest negative gap in the league.

To attempt to bridge the gap between his expected performance and actual performance, Braun decided to embark this offseason on a certain process for the first time in his career – a swing change. He actually started to tweak it during September, during which he saw his best numbers of the 2018 season (.265/.375/.588 with 6 home runs). During September, Braun coincidentally also had his highest percentage of hard hit balls of any month last year (66.7%), which was the highest hard hit rate for any player in any month of last year. Not only could a swing change help him change his luck, but it could actually lead to some of the best stats of his career.

With this swing change, he is aiming to increase the launch angle of his average batted ball, which he believes will help him generate stats that are more in line with his high-level batted ball profile. To illustrate, he said the following during an interview in January: “If you want to take luck out of the equation, you hit more balls over the fence,” he said. “If I’m able to do that, luck becomes less of a factor.” Based on that quote, fans in the left field bleachers at Miller Park might want to pay extra attention when Braun is up this year.

In all seriousness, if Braun can pull off this swing change with success, it could lead to a completely revitalized career trajectory, with team success for the Brewers being an obvious byproduct. Rather than being on his last legs, Braun could play at a high level for another three to four years, given his body holds up. With his contract with the Brewers running through 2021, you can bet that Braun performing in line with his expected statistics would be a true difference maker in helping solidify the Crew as a perennial contender in the NL.

What the Brewers’ need from Orlando Arcia

We are two weeks away from the best day of the year, Opening Day. Opening day starts a new chapter, where everyone is put onto a clear slate. No matter what happened last year, it doesn’t matter anymore. One player who can really use the clean slate is Orlando Arcia. To make the story short, the kid really struggled offensively last year. He became a liability at the end of the lineup. At some points of the season, he seemed to be an automatic out. In July he was sent down to AAA to work on some stuff, and adjust his swing motion. When he came back he seemed to have a little more fire under his belt. That really came through however, in the playoffs.

In the postseason he was electric, hitting as many homeruns as he did in all of the regular season. Another thing that stands out, is his strikeout percentage. During the season he held a 23% strikeout rate, in the postseason, he cut that number in half at 11%. Although the playoffs are a small sample size, I truly believe that the Aricia we saw in the postseason, is ready to shine in 2019.

The biggest problem I saw with Orlando in 2018 was the amount of pitches he seen per at bat. On average he saw about 3.5 pitches, which can be a big problem. If a hitter is out in three to four pitches, he has no chance to get deep into a count, and catch a mistake. Going off of that, is his walks. He had a 4% walk rate, which again can cause a lot of issues. Walks have become so important in the game of baseball. If a hitter can’t take advantage of it, he can severely hurt his team.

Now, I am not saying that Arcia needs to come out and be Lorenzo Cain at the plate, but we do need to see some production at the SS position. He can get a little leeway with his strong defense, but at the end of the day, that can only take him so far. For the Brewers to be 95-67 this year, I projected that each position needs to produce around 85 runs (that includes walks, hits, homeruns, and stolen bases). Last year Arcia nearly hit 30 runs, falling 55 runs under.

Like I said before, this year is a whole new ballgame (see what I did there). With that being the case, let’s look at his winter league numbers. In 72 at bats, he struck out five times and walked ten times. That’s more like it! He also had one home run and posted a .405 OBP. That is the Orlando we all got to witness in the postseason. As of 3/11, in Spring Training with 26 plate appearances, he has walked twice and struck out three times. Now off season and Spring Training numbers only mean so much. However seeing Arcia having some success at the plate is not only promising for this season, but also his confidence.

Since we have now set all the records straight it’s time to get into what really matters, what the Brewers’ need from him. To start things off, it is good to keep in mind that Arcia is a 24 year old, DEFENSIVE shortstop. Not saying that he is never going to contribute a lot on offense, but his main specialty is his defense. Craig Counsell said the other day that the defense revolves around him and how they shift, and that you need a guy like that out there.

As I look at Arcia I don’t expect him to be batting .300 and hitting 25 homers. What I do expect is a solid seven or eight place hitter who can draw a couple walks and not be an automatic out. Another point to the argument is that he needs to make more contact with the ball. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .305, which means when he put the ball in play he was hitting .305.

To not make things so long, the Brewers’ need postseason Arcia to show up everyday. In all, there is a very small amount of things he needs to fix, but without fixing them he could find himself in another disappointing season. Needless to say, the kid came though big time in the postseason, and has a lot more potential that can be brought out.

Brewers Resign Mike Moustakas: The Takeaways

Oct 4, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Mike Moustakas (18) celebrates as he hits a walk off RBI single against the Colorado Rockies in the 10th inning in game one of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Moose is loose no more.

 

On Sunday, the day before the official start of Spring Training, the Brewers reached an agreement with free-agent infielder Mike Moustakas to return to the club for the 2019 season for $10 million.

 

“Moose” was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline last season and started 50 games for the Brewers and was a reliable contact and power threat, with a .767 OPS and 8 home runs. In addition to his solid offensive contributions, Moustakas played stellar defense at third base through the stretch run and into the postseason.

 

The last two offseasons have not gone the way Moustakas had hoped in terms of contracts. Like several other players, he has been forced to settle for a one-year deal, when in past offseasons his services would surely warrant a multi-year contract. Perhaps settling for just one year deals for two straight seasons will be a motivator for Moustakas for this season and beyond, because every player, especially those of Moustakas’ caliber, deserve to go after every penny they can get.

 

Moustakas figures to help bridge the gap to the eventual call-up of Keston Hiura to play second base. This signing gives Craig Counsell tremendous organizational depth to work with in constructing his infield and his lineups in general. Moustakas will be the third left-hander that figures to be in the everyday starting lineup, along with Christian Yelich and Travis Shaw.

 

When Mike Moustakas arrived last season, natural third baseman Travis Shaw was shifted over to second base, where he was serviceable despite playing out of position. It would seem likely that the 2019 season will see more of that trend, however, positional versatility is a virtue, and it has come to light that Moustakas will be the primary second baseman to open the season according to Craig Counsell. That said, it would surprise me if Shaw and Moustakas were limited to only third base and second base, respectively.

 

Aside from his all-star ceiling as a player, Mike Moustakas provides an element of leadership that is indispensible. Having been to two World Series’ prior to arriving in Milwaukee last season, his presence as a clubhouse and on-field leader for some of the younger, inexperienced players on the roster was very much valued, and is a significant reason why he was immediately a fan favorite and welcomed back to Milwaukee for 2019.

 

Here’s to hoping that the “MOOOOOOSE” chants will be raining down at Miller Park deep into October once again in 2019.

 

Way too early projections on the Brewers’ pitching staff

Baseball season is now starting to get back into full swing as pitchers and catchers reported last week. Although it’s way too early to make projections on anything, why not. The rotation has been the biggest question mark over the offseason. Will Jimmy Nelson be back? Do the Brewers need an ace in the rotation? These questions, and more, have circled the Brewers all offseason. A lot can happen from now to opening day, however, if it was today, this is how I would see our pitching staff.

Starting Rotation

Jhoulys Chacín, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff

Chacín is a fairly obvious choice for the rotation, and also my choice for the opening day starter. Anderson and Davies are in very similar positions. Both struggled last season especially down the stretch. Davies battled a nagging injury and Anderson just couldn’t seem to find it. However, these two are still proven winners and definitely have the potential to do that again.

When you look at Burnes and Woodruff, you can’t help but be excited for years to come. Both are very young, talented, and flexible. They spent most of their 2018 tenure in the bullpen, but seem to be slated for the rotation (Initial Out-Getters). For Burnes, we have been reassured many times by Stearns and Counsell that they plan for him is to start. For Woodruff, he is a very solid option, but one who also adds long relief as an option.

Bullpen

Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Taylor Williams, Alex Claudio, Junior Guerra, Jacob Barnes/Adrian Houser

Hader, Jeffress, Knebel, and Williams all seem to be locks in the bullpen. After all putting up very impressive 2018 seasons, it seems that these guys are no doubters. Alex Claudio, who was acquired during the winter meetings, seems to be a solid lefty option. He looks like he will take the position of Xavier Cedeno or Dan Jennings.

When it comes to Junior Guerra, he will be a great long relief option. If Counsell’s pitching strategy is anywhere near to what it was last year, Guerra will be a necessity. When it comes to Barnes or Houser, I really couldn’t decide, and I could make a case for both. It will be dependent on what Counsell needs in the pen. Barnes is a really solid arm, and will give you a strong inning and pretty consistent use. As for Houser, he is a young arm who would be able to go for multiple innings, similar to Guerra. Again, it will really depend on how Counsell will want to use the bullpen. Either way, both pitchers will get innings this season.

Wild Card

Jimmy Nelson

Throughout the offseason, there has been so many questions regarding Nelson’s health. I didn’t put him in any category, because his placement for the start of the season is all dependent on his health. He hasn’t pitched a major league game since 2017, which makes me think that he could start off in long relief. However, he has come out and said that he feels that he is ready for the rotation right away. Obviously, if he would enter the rotation from the beginning, one of the guys would have to get kicked out. If that would be the case, a possibility would be having Woodruff or Anderson enter long relief. That would probably put Barnes in the pen, and Houser to the minors. All this is really dependent on how he is feeling as spring training continues into games. What seems to be forgotten is how severe his injury was, therefore leaving a lot of questions on his position to enter the season.

Minor League Options

Freddy Peralta, Aaron Wilkerson, Josh Tomlin, Bobby Wahl

You can’t go through a major league season only using roughly 13 pitchers, that is just unrealistic. That is where all of these arms find their value. Peralta was another pleasant young surprise from last year. After a very strong debut, over time he seemed to become less effective. I see this being one problem, no secondary pitch. If he is able to get his curveball more developed and consistent in the minors this year, he could be unstoppable. However, that doesn’t mean he will be off limits for a mid season call up.

Wilkerson is a great option for a bullpen pick me up. He brings a good arm, and will be a great call up for a bullpen revamp. Tomlin is a veteran guy who was signed to a minor league contract. Although, he could be the next Wade Miley, it does look like he will starting off in the minors. Lastly is Bobby Wahl, a very young and potential filled arm. He also has a lot of options, which will be great considering this year it seems he will be an up and down pitcher.

Well there you go, way too early pitcher projections for the 2019 season. As I mentioned before, it is way too hard to pick out where pitchers are going to be for the season. Lots of things can happen between now and then, like injuries, or maybe an acquisition. However all we can do now, is enjoy baseball entering our lives again, because baseball always seems to work itself out.  

Brewers 2019 Season Projections

The 2019 season is just around the corner, and the Brewers are fresh off a successful year, reaching the NLCS for the first time since 2010.  There is a lot of momentum from Milwaukee coming into this season.  With 45 days until Opening Day, the Brewers have a lot to look forward to, including the reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich, along with arguably the best bullpen in baseball.  They can only get stronger from here.  However, some critics will say otherwise.

According to Fangraphs, the Brewers are projected to finish last in the NL Central, and furthermore, they are also projected to finish just shy of .500 with a 79-83 record.  Here is a question every Brewer fan is wondering.  Why?  How can we be that bad coming off a historic season?  Yes, the Brewers have not done much this offseason, even with key players on the market.  But David Stearns is not known for picking up All-Star players on such big contracts.  Take Christian Yelich for example.  The Brewers acquired Yelich before the start of the 2018 season.  Some fans were on the fence about the trade due to them giving away underrated outfielder Lewis Brinson.  In fact, many fans thought Yelich was just an average player, but he turned into an All-Star.  It is hard to believe that the Brewers will finish last in the NL Central, especially after a historic season.

The Pirates have not done much this offseason and have lost several key players in their lineup throughout the years, including Andrew McCutchen and now Josh Harrison.  However, they did add Chris Archer at the deadline this past season, who ended up having a disappointing finish to the year.  They also picked up Joe Musgrove from the Astros, who now sits in the middle of their rotation.  The Pirates have a decent starting rotation, but it is not close to the success the Brewers have had with theirs.  Guys like Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta, who have earned their way into the starting rotation, along with returning pitchers Jimmy Nelson, Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies and hopefully Gio Gonzalez will blow Pittsburgh’s stats out of the water.  Let us not forget Milwaukee’s lethal bullpen made of guys like Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, and Corey Knebel.

The Reds have done quite a bit this offseason that could help make a run in the division.  They traded for Dodgers outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, but is that outfield as dangerous as the Brewers?  I am not so sure about that.  Sure, Matt Kemp is a solid player, but up until the 2018 season, he has not been as consistent as he usually is.  Now, you could say the same thing about Ryan Braun, who fans still talk down on since his steroid bust in 2011, but Braun plays well when it matters.  The former NL MVP and 6x All-Star has been so consistent both offensively and defensively that it is almost impossible to beat him and Yelich as the top duo outfielders in the division.  Matt Kemp played well in 2018, making fans think that he is back in his prime.  As for Yasiel Puig, his performance has fluctuated so much that is hard to tell whether he is as good as Dodgers fans say he is.  We will see this season, but the Yelich/Braun duo will succeed once again in the NL Central.  The Reds also acquired All-Star pitcher Alex Wood from the same trade, hoping to boost their bullpen from what it was in 2018.  In addition, the Reds traded for Sonny Gray, reuniting him with his former Vanderbilt and Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson.  There is no doubt the Reds will be better than they have been in previous years, but the Brewers will still outplay them with their strong hitters like Yelich, Braun, and Aguilar, as well as their power defensively.

The Cardinals could possibly be a threat in the NL Central this season, but the Brewers have all the pieces needed to beat them.  The Cardinals recently added Paul Goldschmidt, arguably the best First Basemen in the league.  He will be a key player in their lineup to watch out for in the division, let alone the entire league.  Once again though, the Brewers have two former NL MVP’s in their outfield in Braun and Yelich, a young, top underrated infielder in Arcia, and a lethal offensive lineup consisting of guys like Braun, Yelich, Aguilar, and now former Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal.  Yadier Molina is a top 5 Catcher in the league, but the Brewers now have another key advantage behind the plate in Grandal.  You would be surprised how many Brewers fans were upset about this signing, but if you look at his stats from 2018, he was a top 5 Catcher in the league.  Yes, he did not play well against the Brewers in the NLCS, but they also have two other Catchers in Piña and Kratz.  Grandal is also capable of playing First Base, seeing as Aguilar struggles substantially in the field.  The Cardinals have above average pitchers in Mike Mikolas, Carlos Martinez, and Jack Flaherty, but guys like Jhoulys Chacin, Jimmy Nelson, Brandon Woodruff, Corrbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta will be more lethal in this division than them. The Cardinals are a team to watch out for this year, but the Brewers have more than what it takes to beat them.

Then we have the Cubs.  A team that has and still is a threat to the Brewers coming into this season.  The Cubs have a solid squad, but the Brewers have more talent and can take them down in games when it matters, as we have seen before.  The Cubs may even get beat out by the Cardinals, who have added a major addition to their team both offensively and defensively.  The Cubs bullpen is weak compared to the Brewers and their starting rotation will not be good enough to outpitch them.  They have several guys that cannot get the job done in big games, with ERA’s between 3-6.  Yu Darvish is coming off a season-ending injury and is not going to be as promising as Cubs fans think, especially since he struggled prior.  The Cubs starting rotation consists of guys like Jose Quintana, Kyle Kendricks, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, and Cole Hamels, some who had struggling starts to their season, a time when the Brewers can grab their momentum early.  You would be surprised how many Cubs fans have said, “The Brewers had a bunch of one-hit wonders last season”.  Oddly enough, the Brewers still outplayed them and won the NL Central last season.  The Cubs may have Javier Baez, who lost the NL MVP title to Christian Yelich, Anthony Rizzo, arguably a top 5 First Basemen in the league, and Kris Bryant, who Cubs fans think will shine again in 2019, but the Brewers have more talent right now and coming up in guys like Keston Hiura and Corey Ray, who have a very good chance of getting called up this season.

The Brewers’ talent and success last season make it hard to believe they will finish last in the NL Central in 2019.  The rest of the division have upgraded their rosters quite a bit, but they all still have areas of struggle that will not get the job done against the Brewers, especially at a prestigious field like Miller Park (soon to be American Family Insurance Field).  The Milwaukee Brewers will once again be a team to watch out for this season in the NL Central, despite reports saying otherwise.