Brewers fans, the time has come! The start of spring training is here, which means that opening day is just that much closer (38 days, 14 hours, 44 minutes and 20 seconds from publishing this to be exact). The Brew Crew open up their games with a traditional exhibition against the UW-Milwaukee Panthers before starting their true spring tilts on Saturday against the Angels.
Milwaukee has gladly welcomed Travis Shaw with open arms in 2017, his first season with the Crew. Affectionately nicknamed “The Mayor of Ding Dong City” due to his moonshot home runs, Shaw is an extremely likable player and exudes professionalism on all fronts. So, how exactly did Milwaukee become lucky enough to have his services?
After a promising 2015 rookie campaign, Travis Shaw looked like the Boston Red Sox third baseman of the future. He had hit 13 home runs with an OPS of .813 in just 65 games, putting him on pace for a 30+ home run season had he played the full year.
However, 2016 in Beantown did not bode as well for Shaw. Struggles at the plate pushed him out of favor by the end of the year, and he only garnered two at bats in the postseason for the Sox after amassing 480 over 145 games during the regular season. With his position in the organization marred by uncertainty following his disappointing performance at the plate (.242/.306/.421), Shaw became expendable.
This expendability led to him becoming the centerpiece of the Brewers’ return in dealing stud reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox, with the Brewers receiving prospect Mauricio Dubon as well. Shaw fits the Brewers’ narrative in acquiring young, controllable talent, as he does not face free agency until after the 2022 season. Equally important, the Brewers had a gaping hole at third base following the trade of Aaron Hill during the 2016 season; Jonathan Villar’s extended trial at the position during the latter part of the season displayed that he did not possess the necessary defense to succeed there, and Hernan Perez seemed to be better suited for a super utility role. Enter: Travis Shaw.
Milwaukee presented the perfect opportunity for Shaw. After playing in Boston with a log jam of third basemen behind him threatening to supplant him at any moment, including top MLB prospect Yoan Moncada, Milwaukee’s lack of third basemen in the organization provided little in the way of uncertainty for Shaw. The job was his upon arrival, and would stay that way unless he failed his way out of a lineup spot. The worst-case scenario in this low-risk/high-reward acquisition would be that Shaw serves as a serviceable stop gap until the farm system develops a high-level third baseman. The best-case scenario, which looks to be the case, is that Shaw develops into a piece to build around in the Brewers’ future.
Thus far, Shaw has performed tremendously. He has solidified the middle of the lineup by leading the Brewers in RBIs (34) and hitting for a high average (.290), playing a huge role in the Brewers’ surprisingly elite offense thus far in the season. This production definitely could have resulted from the presumed confidence the Brewers have in Shaw, with him being the only true third baseman on the roster. More likely, this success is due to changes Shaw has made to his approach at the plate. To illustrate, Shaw has excelled from a sabermetric standpoint thus far in the season. He has cut his fly ball percentage by 27%, dropping from 45% in 2016 to 28% in 2017. This has translated to more meaningful contact, as 82.9% of his balls in play this year are classified as medium or hard contact in comparison to 78% last year. Hard contact translates into offensive potency, and that certainly has been the case for Shaw. Shaw’s OPS of .882 displays the straightforward output resulting from these improvements.
In addition to his bat, Shaw provides adequate defense at the hot corner. He possesses a strong arm, and although he looks a little stiff and athletically limited at times, he makes all the routine plays and will surprise you with a web gem every now and then. For Brewers’ fans reference, he falls somewhere on the spectrum between Aramis Ramirez (excellent) and Juan Francisco (atrocious).
Due to all of these factors, Shaw looks to have a relatively stable future in Milwaukee. Lucas Erceg, the Brewers’ presumed third baseman of the future, currently resides in Class-A Advanced. Erceg possesses a very comparable offensive skill set to Shaw, but it will be at least two years until he is ready for the MLB level, especially given his early season struggles in the minors. The only legitimate threat besides Erceg to Shaw would be current second baseman Jonathan Villar if he were forced off his spot at second base due to the call-up of a high tier minor league prospect like Isan Diaz or Mauricio Dubon. Even if this situation did come to fruition, Shaw offers a better offensive profile for third base, and his defense suits the position much better due to his strong arm and Villar’s awful defense at the hot corner during August and September of 2016.
Become familiar with the name “Travis Shaw”, Milwaukee; I have the feeling that we are going to be hearing it a lot for the foreseeable future.
Note: All statistics are accurate as of April 23, 2019 and courtesy of FanGraphs.
At the 2018 All-Star break, Jesus Aguilar appeared to be a breakout star. He had at times single-handedly carried the Brewers’ offense with a first half slash line of .298/.373/.621 while hitting 24 home runs and 70 RBI. He effectively elevated his profile from back-up first baseman to potential MVP candidate. Just three months removed from being arguably the Brewers’ third option at first base, his performance had landed him a spot in both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game.
However, Aguilar turned into a shell of this breakout star in the second half of the year. His performance dipped dramatically across the board, with his slash line post-All Star Game being .245/.324/.436. The dip continued into 2019, as he is currently hitting .132/.231/.162.
Weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+), an advanced statistic used to measure a player’s offensive performance, displays Aguilar’s 2018 second-half drop-off in better detail. While he posted a wRC+ of 160 prior to the All Star Break, his wRC+ post-All Star Break was only 101. This means that he was 60% better than the average player offensively in the first half, and only 1% better in the second half.
This isn’t news for Brewers’ fans. Everyone knows Aguilar has been struggling. That change in wRC+ only tells us what has happened, not why it has happened, which is the question fans want answered. So, on a deeper level, what has changed for Aguilar since last year’s monster first half?
To analyze this question, I will compare Aguilar’s first half rate stats from last year to everything since. This combines his performance thus far in 2019 with his second-half 2018 performance. Just a heads up: things are about to get “mathy”.
First and foremost, on a basic level, he has seen large decreases in his pull and fly ball rates. His pull rate has decreased by 10%, with his fly ball rate seeing a decrease of 9%. Also, his pull rate of fly balls specifically has decreased by 17%. That he is pulling fewer of his already decreased number of fly balls compounds this issue. This is a significant problem, as Aguilar hits a majority of his home runs to left field. This simultaneous decrease in fly balls, pulled balls, and pulled fly balls is likely a driving factor in his decreased home runs totals and cumulative offensive output.
In addition, Aguilar has seen a 13% decrease in his home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB) since the first half of 2018. While he posted a HR/FB rate of 27% prior to the All-Star break, that number has dipped to 14% since. This means that while he previously hit a home run with about one in every four fly balls, that is now more like one in every seven. Given that his fly ball rate already decreased by 9% as discussed above, the effect of that decrease on his offensive output becomes multiplied by his diminished HR/FB rate. In short, a much lower number of his already decreased amount of fly balls are turning into home runs.
In place of his fly balls, Aguilar is hitting a significantly higher number of ground balls. His ground ball rate has increased from 31% in last year’s first half to 40% since. Ground balls are easily the least valuable batted ball on average, with an average OPS league-wide of .494 compared to line drives (1.574) and fly balls (.915). Clearly, a shift in Aguilar’s batted ball portfolio from fly balls to ground balls would drive down his offensive output. Increasing their occurrence has done him no favors.
To summarize, so far we have established the following:
- Aguilar has been hitting far fewer fly balls and pulling fewer fly balls, leading to fewer chances for home runs.
- When Aguilar has been hitting fly balls, they are turning into home runs far less often.
- In place of fly balls, Aguilar has been hitting more ground balls, which provide the least value of any batted ball by a wide margin.
Aguilar’s ineffectiveness can be explored further by looking at his batted ball heat maps. These will show how he typically performs in each area of the zone, and which areas (if any) are giving him more trouble than they had previously. It is worth noting that he has faced the exact same number of pitches over the two time frames (Pre-2018 All-Star Break, Post-2018 All-Star Break), so these numbers should be very representative of the changes to his batted ball outcomes. Below are Aguilar’s slugging percentage per ball in play heat map divided into a 5-by-5 grid (courtesy of FanGraphs). On the left is his map from the first half of 2018, and on the right is everything since.
As you can see, the hot areas Aguilar used to have in the middle of the zone have turned cold. The fall in the “middle-middle” zone has been most drastic – his slugging percentage on balls in play there has dropped from 1.536 to .406. Roughly translated, prior to the 2018 All-Star Break, he would most often get an extra base hit when he put a ball in play from that zone. Since then, the typically ball in play ends with him not getting on base.
It is easy to see from the map that he is struggling across the board and not in just one area of the zone. While he used to have 7 hot zones within the strike zone, since last year’s All-Star break he has only had 2. This means that his change in production is not limited to just one specific location that pitchers are zeroing in on.
Finally, is there any one pitch that has given Aguilar more trouble than it had previously?
While Aguilar’s results against each pitch type have dropped across the board, there is one type of pitch that stands out from the rest: sliders. In the first half of 2018, Aguilar slugged .651 against sliders with 7 home runs. Since then, he has slugged a meager .311 with 4 home runs. His batting average on balls in play facing the pitch has decreased from .333 to .143, indicating either he is facing extremely tough luck or he is simply not generating good contact against the pitch. Due to the trends we have discussed above, I would guess that it is most due to a lack of good contact.
So, where does Aguilar go from here?
There is no one right answer to this question, and honestly, I am grossly under-qualified to answer it. However, it is clear that Aguilar had performed better when his ground ball rate was lower and he was hitting more fly balls. The solution to correcting that is not easy – there is a lot from a hitter’s perspective that goes into generating high quality contact at a desired launch angle. However, if there is an area for Aguilar to focus on, it would be to use whatever methods are available to move back towards the batted ball profile that brought him so much success in the first half of 2018. This may be mechanical-based, approach-based, or simply pure luck, but for Aguilar to be an effective Brewer in 2019, it appears that changes need to be made.
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.
With that pick the Brewers Selected Brice Turang, a shortstop from Santiago High School in Corona, California. The 6 foot 1, 161 pound, 18 year old was a player the Brewers had their eyes on leading up to this draft, but thought he would go sooner than pick 21. In fact, the Brewers had been scouting him since he was a freshman and, he was on the Brewers Fall team.
Batting left handed, he hit .352 with 5 homers and a .464 on-base percentage in his senior season in high school, and was a member of the USA Baseball team last summer, and is an LSU commit.
Interestingly, the Brewers drafted Brice’s father, Brian in 1987 in the 20th round. The Brewers are hoping to get a better result out of Brice than they did his father, Brian never played in a Brewers uniform because he never signed, he did make it up to the bigs briefly, for the Mariners.
With the selection of a young shortstop, the Brewers are most likely going to try to pair him with last year’s first rounder, Keston Huira who is likely to play second base, for the middle infield of the future.
It will be a long road ahead for Turang, he is a solid defensive shortstop, as well as decent hitter, but he is lacking power. At just 160ish pounds he needs to build some size, but again he is still 18 so he has time to build some muscle. He is not as pure of a hitter as Huira, who is now in AA Biloxi, so I would not expect him to make that much of a leap in his first full year, but I would guess in 5-7 years, we could be seeing Brice Turang in Milwaukee.
In their first postseason appearance since 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers are heading back to the National League Championship Series (NLCS). After sweeping the Rockies in the NLDS on Sunday, Milwaukee will get four days rest before Game 1. Earning the one seed in the National League, the Brewers will hosts Games 1 and 2 and if needed Games 6 and 7. Their opponent will be the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hold the season series record at 4-3. We take a look at how these teams have been performing in the playoffs and make a final prediction as to who will advance to the World Series.
*Below are the offensive statistics for players most likely to start in the 2018 Playoffs thru 10/11/18*
In the first series with the Rockies, the Brewers bottom half of the lineup did most of the producing. Whether it was Moose’s walk off in Game 1, or veteran catcher Erik Kratz hitting .625 in the series, the top four in the Crew’s lineup did not do well. Lorenzo Cain, leadoff hitter for Milwaukee, only had one hit in the series, along with two walks. While Yelich and Braun have been hitting like clockwork, Aguilar has also struggled. The only hit Jesus had in the series was a solo home run in Game 3. Shaw moved up to the cleanup spot in Game 3 and proved to Counsell it was a good decision. The makeshift Second Baseman hit .364 with a .500 on base percentage, and two runs batted in. If Shaw’s production remains the same, and Cain and Aguilar get out of their slumps, watch out Los Angeles.
Los Angeles started their journey to the World Series against the three seed Atlanta Braves. Having one of the best lineups in the major leagues, the Dodgers proved to live up to the hype. Third Baseman, Justin Turner, hit .357 with an on base percentage of .500. However, All-Star Manny Machado stole the show, raking in two home runs, six runs batted in, and an on base percentage of .471. The first baseman, Max Muncy, had a clutch series, hitting two home runs with four runs batted in. Los Angeles was also not afraid to steal when on base. The projected eight hitters stole eight times on Atlanta in four games. While many players for the Dodgers have been producing, young Center Fielder, Cody Bellinger, was quiet in the NLDS. But expect him to start heating up in the bottom half of this scary Dodgers lineup as he raked in 25 home runs and 76 runs batted in during the regular season.
*Below are the pitching statistics for all pitchers in the 2018 Playoffs thru 10/11/18*
After earning Bullpen of the Week honors, Milwaukee hopes to continue their absurd amount of success as “out-getters”. Throughout the three game set, the only pitcher to post an ERA was Closer Jeremy Jeffress. In 28 innings of work, the Rockies only scored twice. What’s even more ridiculous is the fact that the Crew’s Pitching Staff held All-Star’s Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story to a combined 5-for-35(.142) with 12 strikeouts. With the extended amount of rest, I expect Counsell to use the bullpen early and often. Hopefully Manager Craig Counsell and GM David Stearns will add Pitchers Dan Jennings(LHP) and Zach Davies. While this would mean dropping Freddy Peralta and Jonathan Schoop, the Brewers already have enough bats for Pinch Hitting opportunities and Davies has a career 2.59 ERA versus Los Angeles.
While Milwaukee is known for one of the best bullpens in baseball, Los Angeles is known for one of the best starting rotations. Obviously the shining star is three time CY-Young winner, Clayton Kershaw. However, Hyun-Jin Ryu proved to be efficient in his Game 1 start versus Atlanta, going seven innings strong and giving up zero runs. What is scary about the Dodgers rotation is the fact that they can go deep. When pitchers like Kershaw and Ryu going seven or eight innings deep, it leaves closing duties to Kenley Jansen. Jansen is responsible for 268 career saves and a 2.20 ERA. With travel days littered throughout the NLCS, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kershaw pitched three times if seven games is needed.
Both teams are absolute powerhouses at the plate. When you have players such as Cody Bellinger and Mike Moustakas consistently hitting sixth, your lineup is deep. Where the lines get blurred is in the pitching. If the Brewers can attack Kershaw and Ryu early, who knows how many runs the Crew can hang. However, if those two pitchers go deep in games, I wouldn’t be surprised about an early exit for Milwaukee. Likewise, if the Dodgers can blow through Milwaukee’s bullpen early in games, Los Angeles can manipulate Counsell’s ability to use a short leash on those pesky “out-getters”. But, if the Brewers keep pitching as dominantly as they have been, they will be leaving more than just Colorado’s All-Star hitters in the dust.
My Prediction: A very good series between two great teams leads to #CrewInSix
Fear the Beer!
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.
2017 Brewers showing Stearns’ rebuild decision was right move
Before the start of baseball season every fan’s dream is envisioning themselves sitting in their home stadium in October, with a hot dog in their left hand and a beer in their right hand, watching their team compete in the MLB playoffs. It’s every fan’s happy place.
The Milwaukee Brewers are on the brink of making every fan’s dream a reality. To be sitting in Miller Park cheering on their hometown Crew on a beautiful fall day in October, in the thick of the National League playoffs.
The Brewers are currently sitting at a record of 63-59, only a mere two games behind the World Champion Chicago Cubs (65-57), a half-game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (63-60), and 4.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates (59-64).
With 38 games remaining, the playoff push is officially off and running. The Crew still have to face-off with these three divisional opponents 18 times. 13 of these match ups coming in their final 16 games. This includes what could be an all-so-pivotal four-game home series against the Cubs that when concluded, would leave only six games remaining on the schedule. The Crew also wrap-up the regular season with a three-game set in St. Louis, ending on Oct. 1.
While the playoffs are within reach, and undoubtedly on every fan’s mind, I simply ask fans to take a deep breath and a step backward. Before we get ahead of ourselves, as fans, we need to think about some contributing factors.
Before the season began, there were no expectations of this team. Many pre-season polls had the Brewer’s winning between 62 and 65 games and taking last place in the NL Central. At the start of the season, Vegas had the over/under of wins for the Brewers at 72.5 games, the second lowest among MLB teams. The Brewers also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball ($63,031,300), which was a shade over a quarter of the league-leading Dodgers ($242,065,828).
David Stearns officially took over as the Brewer’s General Manager in Oct. 2015, and considering the circumstances, seems to be the right man for the job. Stearns signed backup third-baseman Travis Shaw from the Boston Red Sox before the start of this season. Shaw has been the Brewer’s best player this season, hitting .293 with 79 RBI’s and 26 home-runs.
The most notable move Stearns has made as GM was trading away all-star catcher Jonathon Lucroy and RHP Jeremy Jeffress in Aug. 2016 to the Texas Rangers. The Brewers’ received outfielder Lewis Brinson, outfielder/third-baseman Ryan Cordell, and RHP Luis Ortiz. Which seemed to reassure Brewer fans the rebuilding process was officially underway.
Stearns has completely flipped over the Brewer’s roster since taking over in Oct. 2015. He has traded away players such as outfielder Khris Davis, and shortstop Jean Segura. Trading away Segura brought in starting pitcher Chase Anderson, who is currently 6-2 on the season with an ERA of 2.89 on 16 starts.
The Segura trade also paved-the-way for our budding star-shortstop Orlando Arcia. The 23-year-old is currently batting .284, good enough for second among NL shortstops, in only his first season as a full-time starter.
Other moves that Stearns has made have brought in players like Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar, Jonathon Villar, Hernan Perez, Junior Guerra, and Keon Broxton. All of whom have been an integral part of this magical Brewer’s season.
Thames currently leads the Brewers in home-runs with 27, and has driven in 51 runs. Perez has proved to be an excellent utility player and can fill in at any defensive position, whether it’s the infield or outfield, and seems to do it with ease.
With all of these great signings, this still isn’t the most impressive thing Stearns has done. Stearns is keeping these players for the future. None of the players mentioned above will be free-agents until the 2020 season. Stearns has not only been able to keep the lowest payroll in the MLB, but has locked-up key players for at least the next two seasons.
Stearns has made it a point to build this team with his eyes looking forward. Restructuring the Brewers’ lineup looking at the future, while still keeping his mind on the present. Stearns even recently acquired second baseman Neil Walker from the New York Mets.
This move does more than just tend to our second base struggles this season. The GM is showing fans he is committed to this season, while at the same time, showing he doesn’t have to throw the kitchen sink at teams to get better.
As this playoff push moves forward, fans need to support this team. This city needs to buy into the process, and have patience. Fans need to realize that something great is brewing up in Milwaukee. Behind the genius of David Stearns, the Brewers’ run to becoming an MLB powerhouse is just taking off, and well ahead of schedule.
A new golden-age of Milwaukee Brewers baseball is surely coming, and on-the-cusp of bursting. Just remember Brewer fans, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and patience is a virtue. Go Crew!
The Brewers bullpen is currently 10th in the MLB in ERA with a 4.12 in 356 innings. However, it definitely doesn’t feel like they’re among the top third. I’m sure having a top ten ERA is largely because of All-Star closer, Josh Hader, who has a 2.16 ERA in 31 games. With the second half of the season about to begin in a week or two, the Brewers need some bullpen help if they want to stick with the Cubs in the NL Central. The good thing, the Brewers may not have to look any further than their own minor league system for bullpen help. Below is a list of 6 players I think could help the Brewers’ bullpen, even if it’s just a small role.
Supak is a giant 6’5” 240 pound righty who screams promise every time he menacingly steps on the mound. He is a 23-year-old starting pitcher who has been dominating AA ball all season. Currently, Supak has pitched 109 innings and has a 2.23 ERA with 69 strikeouts. He is able to throw a fastball, change up, slider, and curve all for strikes at a really funky angle. Trey Supak could help the Brewers by being a reliable middle relief pitcher who can go as many innings as needed. Also, if things on the mound go well, Supak can step in and make a few starts. This could put a struggling pitcher like Jhoulys Chacin in the bullpen to find his groove. Supak is the 11th ranked prospect in the Brewers farm system according to MLB.com and he could be of use as the playoff race gets tighter.
Aaron Ashby is the pitcher with the best “stuff” of this group. He has a curveball that he throws in the mid 90s that’s truly nasty. He can change speeds with that pitch and locate it as well as he does his above average fastball. With a very unique delivery, Ashby has proved in the minor leagues, that he’s a tough pitcher to face. So far in the minors, as a starter, he has pitched 85 innings and struck out 103 batters. He also has a very good 3.18 ERA. Ashby is a 6’2” lefty who is Milwaukee’s 9th ranked prospect according to MLB.com. He’s only 21-years-old but he already looks like someone who could help the Brewers pitching staff this season.
Clayton Andrews may be the most exciting Brewer prospect to watch. Andrews is a 5’6” 22-year-old lefty reliever for Milwaukee’s A+ team. So far this season, Andrews has pitched 28 innings and struck out 44 batters. The lefty also has a 3.86 ERA. With a sidearm release and movement on every pitch he throws, especially his sweeping curveball, Andrews has the makings of a lefty specialist. It would not surprise me if the Brewers front office is already eyeing Andrews because of Alex Claudio’s inconsistency. Interestingly enough, Clayton Andrews can also fill in for outfielders if needed. Throughout his whole collegiate career he was a position player as well as a pitcher and that hasn’t changed in the pros. He has shown an ability to handle himself at the dish, in 33 plate appearances this season, Andrews is hitting .387 with an OPS of .811. Essentially, Andrews is the smaller, less-known, poor man’s version of Shohei Ohtani and Brendan McKay. Andrews could potentially spark the Brewers offense and pitching staff later in the season.
The same way Trey Supak is the dominating starting pitcher for Milwaukee’s AA team, Cody Ponce is the dominating relief pitcher. Like Supak, Ponce has a monstrous frame but he is actually an inch taller listed at 6’6”. Ponce is a right hander with a fastball and cutter that both look identical coming out of his hand. He is able to throw both of these pitches for strikes while also sprinkling in a few curveballs and change ups. A cutter is a useful pitch for a reliever to have considering it can induce a lot of ground balls which can help a pitcher get out of a jam. So far in the minors, Ponce has appeared in 20 games and thrown 30 innings. In these innings he also has 33 strikeouts and an ERA of just 1.80. If a player like Corbin Burnes keeps struggling, who knows, maybe a more reliable pitcher down the stretch could be Cody Ponce.
Hintzen is a right handed relief pitcher who is probably the riskiest option for the Brewers to call up. For the Brewers A+ affiliate he has pitched 35 innings and generated 48 strikeouts. With an ERA of 3.34, the numbers have looked good for Hintzen. He has a power fastball and a couple great breaking pitches. His only issue is walks. By calling up Hintzen now, the Brewers are either getting a guy who’s striking out the side or a guy who’s walking guys on base and struggling to get out of an inning.
Rodrigo Benoit is the Brewers’ A+ team’s closer. He is another right hander who could be a dark horse call up candidate if Milwaukee gets desperate. In 28 innings this season, he is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He has also added 24 strikeouts and 12 saves. As an older prospect, Benoit has been closing games for a few years and may be the guy the Brewers need as the stakes build in the postseason.
As you can see, the Brewers have talented arms in the minors, it’s just a matter of it they are ready for the pressure of an MLB game. If Milwaukee calls up one or two of these pitchers and they make a positive impact, there is no question that the Brewers can recapture their magic from last season.
*Stats accurate as of 7/5/19, 6:00 pm*
As of Wednesday night’s game, the Milwaukee Brewers are 5-3 since the 27th of July in games against the Diamondbacks and Pirates in Milwaukee and the Padres in San Diego.