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Wednesday, December 12th 2018
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Brewers’ Slump is Concerning, but Reversible

Winning the National League Central Division Pennant almost seemed like a forgone conclusion for some overzealous Brewers fans before the All-Star break. Their team led the struggling Chicago Cubs by as much as 5.5 games, and Milwaukee’s offense looked unstoppable for much of the first half. The Brewers even started the second half with a 9-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, and went on to win two out of three to take the series. Then the Brewers went on a ten-game road trip, and it went about as badly as it could have. The Pirates swept a four-game series, the NL-worst Phillies got their revenge by winning two of three, and the Nationals won a three-game set, including a 15-2 bloodbath finale, in which Washington crushed 8 home runs, including five in the second inning and four consecutively off Michael Blazek. While all that was happening, the Cubs started to surge, which gave way to the Brewers losing their spot atop the Central.

However, that poor road trip set up one of the biggest series of the year last weekend, as the Cubs traveled north on I-90 to Miller Park. If the Brewers could have squeaked out two games, they would have sat just a half game back. Instead, the bats remained silent, and they won just one game, and averaged 1.67 runs per game, and didn’t get a single hit with runners in scoring position. In fact, the Brewers went 0 for 33 with runners in scoring position for a stretch, an all-time low mark in franchise history. “A week without a hit with runners in scoring position, that’s not really acceptable,” Travis Shaw, the team’s RBI leader, told reporters Sunday. “We have to find a way to cash in on those opportunities.”

Three Ways to End the Slump

1.) Score runs, obviously

The Brewers have been able to put up huge offensive numbers all season. They have been among the Major League leaders in home runs and RBIs, and that helped mask a mostly-mediocre pitching staff (although the starters have been fantastic lately). Hitting with runners on second or third base will be key for this offense the rest of the way, and that starts with a series at Miller Park against the St. Louis Cardinals.“We’ll come back Tuesday against the Cardinals — another division rival and they’re playing well,” rookie outfielder Lewis Brinson said. “We’ll come back on Tuesday and be ready to go. I think everybody’s ready.” Although the offensive struggles continued (just 5 hits), the Brewers took game one against St. Louis on Tuesday, 3-2. It will take more than confidence to win, but confidence is a good first step.

 

2.) Mix-up the bullpen

Jeremy Jeffress is coming back to Milwaukee, a place he considers home. But is Jeffress (5.31 ERA with Texas this year) going to be what puts the Brewers over the top? Probably not. With that being said, Jeffress was dominant as Milwaukee’s closer last year, posting a 2.22 ERA and saving 27 games before being traded with Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers.

Jeremy Jeffress will bring his hard fastball back to Milwaukee, and try to fortify the inconsistent Brewers bullpen. Photo: Jim Mone, Associate Press.

Jeffress will bring a lively fastball, one that has averaged 96 miles per hour throughout his career. Many fans would also be happy to see Oliver Drake and/or Carlos Torres finally get the boot. Although they are both among the most used relievers in baseball, they’ve been frustratingly ineffective. Drake has surrendered a 4.66 ERA in 45 games, while Torres has given up an ugly 8 home runs, and posted a 4.47 ERA. Although the team wasn’t able to acquire Pat Neshek or Justin Wilson, there are guys having great years in Triple-A Colorado Springs. Taylor Jungmann, who pitched in one game in the Majors this year, is 7-1 with a 3.13 ERA for the Sky Sox. Tristan Archer has also performed well, winning 7 games and maintaining a sub-4 ERA. It could be time to call up some new names and move on from the likes of Torres and Drake.

For everyone in the bullpen, not just Drake or Torres, walks have been an issue. Between Drake, Torres, Corey Knebel, Jared Hughes, and Jacob Barnes, the most used relievers have 3.94 BB/9, which is disturbingly high. Even the All-Star Knebel has walked 29 batters in 48.1 innings (he has also struck out 85 batters, so he gets a pass). The bullpen pitched lights out in the last series against the Cubs, and that will need to continue. If it doesn’t, though, it should be a sign that more new arms are needed.

3.) Reorder the Batting Lineup

If you’re sick of Jonathan Villar’s .216 average leading off, you’re not alone. Keon Broxton was hitting .218 before he was sent down to Triple-A, so you might be wondering why Villar hasn’t gotten the same treatment. Hernán Pérez is more than capable of splitting time at second base with Eric Sogard, so it really is an anomaly. Anyway, Villar is still on the Major League roster, so why not move him down in the order? Orlando Arcia has had a tremendous season, slashing .276/.322/.399 while bashing 9 home runs and 36 RBIs. Arcia has thrived in the 8-spot all year, so why tinker with that? Because Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, and Travis Shaw need more guys on base when they are at the plate. If Arcia could continue his offensive success at the top of the order, it could maximize the RISP opportunities for the middle of the lineup. Villar was outstanding in 2016, but that has yet to transfer to 2017. Some time in the minors or hitting before the pitcher could be just what he needs.

Every team in every sport goes through significant rough patches. The last two weeks have embodied just that for the Milwaukee Brewers. We know that this is a good team. The offense has the talent to be elite, and the starting pitchers have exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. We are approaching the home stretch, and it appears as if the Cubs are poised to make a run. The Brewers are far from finished, and they still have a fighting chance to get hot and play some October baseball.

 

Brewing Up the Bucks

For pure entertainment purposes, us here at Cream City Central were thinking, “What if the Bucks threw on the blue and gold and were Brewers?” In this article we will use the 2016-2017 Milwaukee Bucks roster to fill the positions of the Brewers. We will break the roster down by both position and batting order. The Bucks roster is ten players shorter than the Brewers so we will fill the roster as follows: all 8 field positions, five starting pitchers, a closer, and a designated hitter. The players will also be listed in the batting order.

 

SS Gary Payton II:

Peyton’s impact as a guard on the Bucks may be limited, but on the Brewers he’s hitting leadoff. His speed and quickness allows for his quick hands to get through the zone and pepper the field with singles. He’s the type of guy you want hitting leadoff, great average, high on base percentage, and the ability to run on just about any pitcher in the league.

 

LF Rashad Vaughn:

Vaughn gets the nod out in left field. A shifty, quick player who gets good jumps on the ball in the field and can cover ground.  At the plate he doesn’t offer much power, but he’s a solid two hitter. He will hit for a good enough average because of the protection provided by the three hole and is able to provide a tough out before the heart of the order.

3B Jabari Parker:

Jabari screams Aramis Ramirez, great arm, good reactions, and a powerful bat at the plate. With his size and athleticism he has the range to be a gold glover, the only question is will he survive the grind of a 162 game season. He’s got the talent to be an all-star caliber player, but due to injuries hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup. At the plate Jabari is discipline, he has a good eye, but if you make the mistake of leaving a belt high pitch, he’ll go yard on you.

1B John Henson:

Henson hits cleanup for the Crew as a big power hitting first basemen. He has the power to take any pitcher deep, but like any good power hitter, also is susceptible to strikeouts. The big seven foot strike zone might be an issue, but he’s the type of guy who can really smack the ball with his long levers. The reason henson is at first is because of his length. He’ll have the biggest radius to be able to snag throws that other guys simply couldn’t.

CF Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Giannis takes the five spot in the order. I’d consider Giannis a Travis Shaw type player, but with less power. He’d hit around .300, give you a hit or two just about everyday, and field his position at par if not better. He’ll also be your most consistent hitter and work the count never giving in during an at bat. The reason I have Giannis in center is because of his long strides and ability to cover a lot of ground in very few steps. His ability to cross half court and take two steps and get to the rim translates well to center field and tracking down a line shot to the gap. Another reason to have Giannis out in center is because of his leaping ability. Giannis could be a Trout-esque player. The type of guy who could go up the wall and make incredible catches night in and night out.

C Khris Middleton:

I originally had Middleton at a different position, but when it came down to it I thought out of all the guys he’d be the best catcher. As a student of the game in basketball, Middleton has a great basketball I.Q. and I feel like he’d do the same in baseball. This would allow him to call good games behind the plate and put his pitching staff in a position to win games while he’s behind the plate. He also has great lateral quickness which would allow him to slide back and forth and block any balls in the dirt. Middleton hits sixth in the lineup because of his ability to be an average hitter. Not someone who will give you more than 20 home runs on the year because he doesn’t have a ton of pop in the bat, but he’ll hit somewhere between .250 and .275, add in 65-80 RBI’s and have a solid .333-.366 OBP. Middleton is the type of guy you need in your lineup in case 3,4, and 5 just aren’t getting it done (that’s one of the main reasons the Brewers have been so successful this year).

RF Thon Maker:

Thon got the position of right field for a couple of reasons, first, he wouldn’t see too much action. Second, like Giannis, he has good leaping ability and range which would allow him to track down balls. He also would have a high release point of the baseball making it easier to throw the ball on a direct line from right field to the plate, so expect him to shock you with a handful of putouts year in and year out. As the seven hitter, you don’t expect much from Maker, but he’ll have his games here and there. His big strike zone really hurts him and I don’t see Thon as the type of guy who’d be able to pull his hands in and yank one down the line. Expect him to be your average major league hitter at best, but the type of guy who can have a night here or there.

2B Matthew Dellavedova:

Dellavedova’s face says it all. Grit. Effort. Above all, the will to do anything to win. He’s a true second baseman. You’ll always see him in a low squat (just like his three point shot) and if his uniform isn’t dirty by the end of the game, he wasn’t in the lineup. Delly is the type of player that short arms it from second, but still manages to make the routine plays and get guys out. He’d have decent range with his above average lateral quickness and ability to get a good jump on a ball off the bat. Delly actually is hitting nine in my lineup (Pitcher hits 8 in NL matchup), I’m going the Tony La Russa route with this lineup. Delly has surprisingly good speed and can act as a second leadoff hitter. It also allows for three batters (position players) to be ahead of the power hitting 3 hole that is Jabari Parker. That increases the chances of there being guys on base for the three hole and possibly the bases loaded.

 

CL Spencer Hawes:

The sole reason Hawes is the closer for this team? His beard. I can see it now, Hawes jogging in, beard in the wind, some sort of rock song in the background that has fans roaring in the top of the 9th. Hawes is the type of closer to bring the heat. A mid to high 90’s fastball which is complimented by a drop-off-the-table type curve. He’s the type of pitcher that instills fear in hitters and gives them nightmares when they sleep. You don’t want to face this guy.

SP Jason Terry:

Jason Terry is my ace for this team. He may not be as tall as many starting pitchers, but he’s got the pitchers mindset. One of the smartest guys on the field. He pitches each and every batter like a chess match, thinking a couple moves ahead and setting guys up for failure each at bat. He might not be the most physically gifted guy on the mound, but you can bet Terry is the smartest player on the field at all times.

SP Malcolm Brogdon:

The Prez is similar to Terry in the fact that he is very smart on the mound, but not quite as smart as Terry. The only thing that puts Brogdon as the number two guy is the fact that he has a gifted arm. Brogdon is the rare combination of a talented arm and a mind that is well beyond his years. He has incredible potential, but hasn’t fully developed into the ace he might be one day. He’s coming of his first great season, but looks to continue that going forward in his career. The Brewers think he might be the type of guy with a mid two ERA and 100+ strikeouts, and he may very well be on his way to that.

SP Michael Beasley:
Beasley is the loose cannon of the staff. The guy that could be lockdown and give up no runs or the guy that gets shelled for 9 runs in two innings. He’s similar to a guy like Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals, he could get flustered easily and lose a game at any given moment, but as long as he’s calm, he should be able to pitch a good game.

SP Mirza Teletovic:

Teletovic is your traditional fourth pitcher. A guy who will get you somewhere around 10 wins, but probably won’t impress all too much in any given outing. He’s got average stuff, but as a veteran has proven himself already in the league. On the decline of his career Telly probably has a few good years left in him at best until he becomes the Jeff Suppan of your club.

SP Tony Snell

Snell comes in as the fifth guy on the staff, but for most teams would probably be a three or four. He really is a solid pitcher, but has always had guys in front of him who are that much better. You can still expect a lot from snell including a quality start just about every time he takes the mound. His only real issue is that he really doesn’t get a whole ton of run support. He’s a young guy who will definitely get his shot one day whether it’s with the Brewers or another team, but he’s developing into a really solid player and will be a top end starter soon.

DH Greg Monroe:

Monroe gets the nod at DH. He’s a David Ortiz-esque player, the type of guy who doesn’t move well at all, is limited to pretty much only DH or 1B. He’ll either hit it out of the park or he’s settling for a single. Monroe is a good hitter, but probably never a great hitter and wouldn’t crack the lineup on a daily basis for an NL team. On the right team in the AL, he’s probably the everyday DH, but in Milwaukee, the fit hasn’t worked out all as planned. He still has made the most of it and has been able to string together some solid numbers over the past few years in his limited role, but the big power hitter could do even better somewhere else. With that being said though, he’ll give you a solid 15-20 homers off the bench and that’s saying a lot for a guy who doesn’t play everyday.

Brewers Trade Deadline: Joakim Soria

The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired right-handed relief pitcher Joakim Soria from the Chicago White Sox for AA left-handed pitcher Kodi Medeiros and right-hander Wilber Perez from the Dominican Summer League.

 

As the new MLB Prospect Watch was released today, Medeiros, a former first-round pick, was ranked as the Brewers #13 prospect and the primary left-handed starter in the farm system.  He was beginning to find success at the AA level posting a 3.14 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 103.1 innings. In Perez’s two summer seasons, he charted 17 appearances with a 5-1 record, 40.1 innings, and 47 strikeouts.

 

Joakim Soria has a career 2.84 ERA in 613 games. He is a two-time All-Star and is fifth in active pitchers with 220 career saves.

 

Soria fits into the Brewers already stocked bullpen as another middle reliever.  Manager Craig Counsell’s rotation averages less than six innings pitched per game which puts a heavy toll on the relievers.  Adding Soria is another extremely capable arm to take over in any inning and lead the way for set-up guys like Jeremy Jeffress or Josh Hader, embrace a set-up role, or even close a game.  

 

Medeiros and Perez fit the White Sox developing farm system which is booming with talent specifically with pitchers like Michael Kopesch, Dylan Cease, and Dane Dunning who are all top 100 prospects. Medeiros is an enigma, however, as he will be Rule 5 eligible this next season.  This means he will need to be on the 40 Man roster of the White Sox or he could be scooped up by another team in the Rule 5 draft. Medeiros has been successful this year, however, he has struggled with giving up runs as he has not posted an ERA lower than 4.44 and has been as high as 5.93 in full seasons.  His control has also been spotty as he has averaged half a walk an inning throughout his minor league career which has contributed to the inflated ERA. Perez is only 20 years old and his progression will be tested once he plays a full season, but his smaller sample size has proved positive in the Dominican Summer League.

 

The Brewers valued Medeiros, but General Manager David Stearns mentioned situations like this are tough as he will be getting rid of him as the “price of playing poker,” on MLB.com.  Stearns seems to believe that he is acquiring a great arm the Brewers can utilize to close out tight games with Soria. Milwaukee does not seem to be done yet, though. Scouts from a number of sellers including the Mets, Rangers, Royals, Reds, Marlins, and Tigers showed up to scout the Brewers strong AA team.  Rumors are also swirling about starter Zach Wheeler from New York, Minnesota middle infielders Eduardo Escobar, Brian Dozier, and pitcher Kyle Gibson, and Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy.

 

Who would you like Stearns to make a move for by Tuesday’s deadline? Feel free to comment or tweet @CreamCityCtral.

 

Statistics found on Baseball Reference

How Have the Newest Brewers Performed Since Their Arrival?

20 games over .500 and firmly in playoff position is where the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in the season’s final month. The team’s structure and roster, though, is much different than it was on Opening Day all the way back in late March. There have been key contributors coming up from the minor leagues like Corbin Burnes, as well as trade acquisitions in Jonathan Schoop, Mike Moustakas, and Joakim Soria, among others. This article will provide an in-depth analysis of how those new Brewers have helped, or hurt, Milwaukee’s postseason push.

1. Mike Moustakas

I, along with many Brewers fans was dumbfounded initially by this move by David Stearns that sent Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez to Kansas City for lefty slugger Mike Moustakas. The confusion stemmed from the fact that Milwaukee already had a more than capable third baseman in Travis Shaw. The supposed logjam figured itself out though, and Moustakas has been a huge addition. He has hit 5 home runs for the Crew and has driven in 23 runs across 37 games, and played a solid third base defensively. In addition to his offensive and defensive prowess, the Moose’s experience of playing in two World Series with the Royals and winning one, could prove to be important to a relatively inexperienced Brewers team.

2. Joakim Soria

Former Chicago White Sox closer Joakim Soria has been unspectacular in his brief Brewers tenure, however his struggles are not to the point where he is not trusted by Craig Counsell in high-leverage, late-inning scenarios. The 34 year old has appeared in 16 games, has allowed 13 earned runs, and owns a WHIP of 1.35. Part of why he has not been great thus far is likely due to the quad injury he suffered on August 9th against the Padres. There is certainly room for improvement going forward.

3. Jonathan Schoop

Brewers players and fans erupt after Jonathan Schoop’s Grand Slam Sunday

2018 has been up and down for Schoop as a member of both the Brewers and Orioles, however he is getting hot at the right time for his new squad. He was responsible for a memorable moment last Sunday at Miller Park, hitting a go-ahead grand slam off of Madison Bumgarner just mere moments after Craig Counsell was ejected from the game. The early returns on Schoop were awful. It took him weeks to look comfortable at the plate in his new threads. But since the end of August, he has been a valued contributor and is looking like the player the Brewers thought they were getting at the July 31st trade deadline.

Since those three large scale acquisitions, the Brewers front office has added additional veteran players Xavier Cedeno, Curtis Granderson, and Gio Gonzalez. Those three could prove to be pivotal in their own right, however the sample size is too small at this point to dig too deep into it. As stated previously, the Brewers roster makeup is very different and considerably better than it was on Opening Day, and it is unlikely the team would be in the favorable position it is in now in terms of playoff positioning without the midseason additions and subtractions that have been made.

Predicting the Brewers Playoff Roster

After a torrid September, the Brewers culminated their regular season with a division-clinching win over the Chicago Cubs, bringing Milwaukee its first division title since 2011. Part of the Brewers tremendous success down the stretch was due to the versatility of their roster, which was expanded to 36 players for most of the final month. Craig Counsell and the front office will need to trim that down to 25 players for their divisional series against the winner of the Cubs and Rockies, giving this team a much different feel than fans have become accustomed to over the past month. What will that roster look like? Here are my predictions:

Catchers (2): Erik Kratz, Manny Piña

No surprises here. Piña and Kratz will fill the two roster spots the Brewers will assign to the catcher position, with Jacob Nottingham missing the cut. Piña and Kratz have both been integral to the success of the Brewers pitching staff.

Infielders (6): Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Mike Moustakas, Hernan Perez, Jonathan Schoop, Travis Shaw

Despite the charisma and moxie Eric Thames brings to the clubhouse, it looks like he is a longshot to make the postseason roster, at least for the divisional series. He has struggled greatly recently, and has no defined role on the team anymore as it currently stands. His positional versatility pales in comparison to Hernan Perez and even Jonathan Schoop, and the acquisition of Curtis Granderson makes Thames second fiddle as a left-handed bat off the bench. Tyler Saladino will also not appear on the first edition of the playoff roster, which is no surprise.

Outfielders (5): Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, Lorenzo Cain, Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich

Keon Broxton has proven his worth to the Brewers over the final month of the season, and provides the Crew with an elite-level defensive replacement and pinch running option. Players like him can be extremely valuable come playoff time, when one run can make the difference between a World Series berth and packing your bags (see Exhibit A, Dave Roberts/Boston Red Sox 2004). Granderson provides a solid left-handed bat off the bench as well, as was mentioned previously. His acquisition at the waiver trade deadline has paid dividends for the Brewers. Domingo Santana was one of my hardest cuts, as he provides a great bat off the bench, but in choosing between the impact Broxton can make in the field and Domingo’s impact with the bat, I think Keon adds more value.

Starting Pitchers (3): Jhoulys Chacin, Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley

This is where things get really tricky. The Brewers’ approach to their starting pitching has been very unpredictable in September, so it is tough to judge what they will do. My guess is that they will rely on three starters rather than four, as Chase Anderson and Zach Davies have been unreliable as of late and Freddy Peralta has been seldom used. A three-starter rotation is manageable in the playoffs, and while Miley and Gonzalez may only be good for five innings on occasion, the Brewers can then turn to their stacked bullpen for the final four. Chacin has been a rock, and you can assume that the Brewers will want him to start their most important games if possible.

Bullpen (9): Corbin Burnes, Xavier Cedeño, Junior Guerra, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Jennings, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, Brandon Woodruff

Cutting the bullpen down was very challenging, given the important role that every single member of the Brewers current 14-man outfit has played down the stretch. Ultimately for me it came down to choosing between Jacob Barnes, Junior Guerra, Dan Jennings, Freddy Peralta, and Taylor Williams for the final two spots in the bullpen. I ended up siding with Guerra and Jennings. Guerra provides a second long relief option in addition to Brandon Woodruff, and Jennings gives the Brewers a second lefty-on-lefty option in addition to Cedeño. Counsell loves playing match-up games, so having this versatility in the bullpen is very important. Neither Peralta, Barnes, or Williams contributes to a versatile bullpen in a significant way, so ultimately, I had to cut them off.

So, there are my predictions. While there are sure to be a few misses on my part, let’s hope the Crew that ultimately comprises the final-25 can bring a title back to the Cream City!

Breakout Brewers: Domingo Santana

Standing surprisingly as one of the longest tenured players on the roster, the Brewers originally acquired Domingo Santana as part of the 2015 deadline blockbuster deal that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astro in return for Santana and prospects Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser. After an injury mired 2016 season left him with only 77 games played (.256/.345/.447, 11 HR), Santana needed to show Milwaukee his worth in 2017 to guarantee a spot in their future plans, especially with the barrage of high-level outfield prospects coming through the system. Thus far in the season, Santana has capitalized on his breakout potential, and is looking like an integral piece moving forward.

Predictions For This Year’s Brewers

The MLB regular season is about a week young, and those rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers know that their team has a legitimate shot at playoff contention, if not higher aspirations. Once newfangled ace Jimmy Nelson returns from a right rotator cuff strain and a torn labrum. Orlando Arica’s wunderkind abilities at shortstop are exciting enough, if he could just limit his errors. And, perhaps most importantly, this is a team fresh off an 86-win season, with a rebuilt outfield, one assembled based off the sabermetric prowess of general manager David Stearns. While the season is unblemished, it’s only right to prognosticate which stats and awards certain players will obtain by season’s end, the act of which may look inane in months to come. Anyway, here are some predictions regarding 2018’s rendition of the Brewers:

Orlando Arcia Wins A Gold Glove

Anyone who has watched the scrawny 23-year-old Venezuelan knows that, defensively, he can cover ground like very few and possesses a whipping right wrist. Last season, the former Top 100 prospect led National League shortstops in range factor, which divides putouts and assists by games, or innings, played. However, he was also tied for first, with Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson, in errors committed with 20. He may not get top-tier cooperation with Ryan Braun settling in at first, as a newbie, but Arica’s play off contact, and his ability to throw from virtually anywhere in the infield makes it likely that he’ll be a candidate.

 

Manny Piña Takes Over Starting Catcher Role…for Good

At the plate, he has only gone 4-for-17 in his first four games, but Piña still remains a superior defender to any other Brewers’ catcher. Despite playing a little over two-thirds of last season behind the plate, Piña posted the 10th-highest defensive WAR in the Big Leagues. Last year, Pina posted a 36 percent caught-stealing rate, whereas Jett Bandy, who has already seen one start at catcher this season, floated around 17 percent. Elsewhere at the position, there has been no news regarding catcher Stephen Vogt, who has been sidelined for over a month with a shoulder injury. Also, by having consistent bats at the top of the order, the Brewers undoubtedly should demand less from their catchers at the plate.

 

Travis Shaw Sees Regression in Homers, RBI, But Increase in Average

So far in this young season, Shaw seems destined for a season full of swinging at pitches outside the zone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that he’s seeing a slight improvement in making contact in such places. He’s effective at spraying the ball all around the field, and he’s more than capable of knocking runners in, but…so is Christian Yelich, who hasn’t hit second in any order semi-regularly since 2015, though was even then hitting .340 with 19 RBI. And Yelich has gotten much better as a hitter since….There are a lot of mouths to feed in Milwaukee, and with the talents of Cain, Yelich and Braun ahead of Shaw, it seems like the bases may very well be clear by the time the 27-year-old takes stabs at the plate.

 

Craig Counsell Wins NL Manager of the Year

If Arizona Diamondbacks’ skipper Torey Lovullo didn’t advance a 69-win ball club from 2016 into an NLDS squad, Craig Counsell likely would’ve secured this award a season ago. To be fair, he finished fourth, but, now, Counsell isn’t coming off a sub-.500 year. The Brewers are going to have to overcome adversity, likely improve upon their record from an already-impressive 87 wins, and cook up a remarkable cuisine for the national audience. What doesn’t help is that Milwaukee only has one game set to be broadcast on ESPN – next Monday’s affair against the St. Louis Cardinals – and the television schedule usually maintains its uniformity until late in the season, when the network can add games with playoff implications. Luckily, the Crew will be playing 14 other games that will be broadcasted nationally. This is important because national writers will be tuned in, and stellar performances can win over voters for awards such as this. Ultimately, though, cashing in on this attention by winning ball games will put Counsell first in the conversation.

 

The Brewers Have Three All-Stars

I know, I know, Major League Baseball makes concessions for nearly every player to make the Midsummer Classic, to the point of the actual game being usurped by festivities and the Home Run Derby. But, whether it’s a trio consisting of Ryan Braun, Josh Hader and Nelson (if he can come back quick enough), or Arcia, Cain and Shaw, Milwaukee, with its teeming amount of talent, both returning and new, and uber-excited fan base will allow the ball club to have three All-Star representatives suit up for the first time since 2014.

 

Lorenzo Cain Scores the Fifth-Most Runs in MLB

Craig Counsell likes to get experimental with his batting orders on a day-to-day basis. In 2017. Cain, who has been the leadoff batter in four of the five games played so far, and always hit either second or third in the batting order with the Kansas City Royals last year, will likely always have some formula of Christian Yelich, Braun, and Shaw behind him in the order. Because of this, paired with his ability to run the bases – he ranked in the top 20 in UBR, and third in wSB among MLB outfielders last season – Cain should be atop the leaderboard in runs scored, barring injury and spastic changes to the batting order.

 

Josh Hader Finishes Top 5 in SO/9

When working with a full count last year, Hader lost hitters more so than relinquished them, posting a 0.54 strikeout per walk ratio in such scenarios. With that said, Hader didn’t give up many hits last season, posting a WHIP less than 1.00. The second-year man has a heater that settles in the mid-90s, one that yields a high opponent swing-and-miss rate. He dominated in the sixth inning more so than in late-game situations, though he was never called on to close. He struck out approximately 13 batters per nine innings last season, which, had he qualified, been among the best in the league. Expect him to get proper work and deliver.

 

An Arm Comes Over (via Trade) in July

Last season, the Brewers’ pitching rotation, relievers and starters alike, stepped up from the year prior, posting the ninth-best team ERA (4.00), and surrendering the 11th fewest hits, and sixth fewest home runs per 9 innings in the Majors. Perhaps somewhat-abandoned players like Domingo Santana or Eric Thames, if Braun mans a reliable presence at first, packaged with one of the organization’s many young outfielders could warrant an anchor in the rotation. Of course, rookie Brandon Woodruff, the injured veteran Wade Miley haven’t gotten the chance to prove themselves with this team, but if the offense is providing beaucoup run support, yet the team is still failing to win games, look for the Crew to poach an expiring contract.

 

A Playoff Game is Played in Milwaukee

This doesn’t just suggest that the Crew are making the playoffs, it’s that they are going to host a game, whether in the Wild Card round, or in the NLDS. Last season, if the Crew had Jimmy Nelson for the remainder of September, they likely would’ve been playing the Diamondbacks in early October. Now, with improved defenders in the outfield, in Cain and Yelich, both of whom, on average, strikeout less than former starters Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, the Crew have few pitfalls. The rotation, as just mentioned, will be the biggest question mark, with some hurlers returning from injury, and their ability to go deep into games. The Brewers caught everyone off-guard last season, by popping up in the upper echelon of National League teams, but ’tis the season for justification.

 

**All stats up to date, as of April 3**

Brewers Week In Review: 6/27-7/2

The Brewers, again, entered this past week with a division lead over Chicago still intact. Cubs fans around social media continued to argue “this won’t last much longer, when the Cubs get hot, the Brewers are going down.” However, that continues not to be the case, as yet another up and down week (this time 3-3) still has resulted in a 2 game division stronghold heading into Monday’s contests. However, a one-game showdown with the Cubs in Wrigley looms, so the Crew’s next series against Baltimore and those after it remain all the more critical.

Now, it’s time for a look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

Upcoming series: vs. Baltimore (7/3-7/5), @ Chicago (7/6), @ NY Yankees (7/7-7/9)

Pitching matchups vs. Baltimore: Wade Miley (3-6, 4.54 ERA) vs. Brent Suter (0-1, 4.20 ERA); Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 6.48 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (6-4, 3.43 ERA); Chris Tillman (1-5, 7.90 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (3-4, 4.36 ERA)

Pitching matchups at Chicago: Zach Davies (9-4, 5.03 ERA) vs. Mike Montgomery (1-5, 2.80 ERA)

Players to Watch: Orlando Arcia and Zach Davies

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner: Orlando Arcia

For the second week in a row, the Rollie Fingers award goes to Orlando Arcia. Yes, I know, I can’t just give it to him every week (and don’t worry, I won’t). However, he once again deserves it. From delivering a perfect cut off throw to nail down J.T. Realmuto at home plate and prevent the tying run from scoring to continuing his hot-hitting ways (hitting over .340 since mid-May), Arcia again showed why he is more than deserving of this award. Maybe, just maybe, someone can dethrone him next week.

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Stephen Vogt

Since being claimed off of waivers by Milwaukee on June 25th, the former Athletics catcher has already endeared himself quite well to the Brewers faithful. For one, he collected his first hit and RBI as a Brewer in his first start, a 4-3 loss at Cincinnati, where his RBI sac fly was pulled back into the yard by Scott Schebler on what looked to be a sure home run. Vogt then likely thought “well, I’ll just hit some at home” and did just that, with his first two hits at home leaving the yard and providing all Brewers RBIs in a 3-2 win over the Marlins. He even received a curtain call for his efforts following the second blast.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Jimmy Nelson

While last week’s winner Corey Knebel could have been selected again on the back of a record-tying appearance against Miami and the club’s sole All-Star nod, Nelson’s start this week could not be ignored. Against a powerful Reds lineup in Cincinnati which includes bats such as Joey Votto and the aforementioned Scott Schebler, Nelson shut them down over seven innings, only giving up two earned runs while walking only one and striking out eleven. The start also lowered his ERA to his current 3.43, and he will hope to continue his series of strong starts against Baltimore on July 4th.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .282, 15 2B, 6 3B, 14 HR, 54 RBI, 2 SB

Ryan Cordell (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): .284, 18 2B, 5 3B, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 9 SB

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 4 Prospect): 3-4, 3.79 ERA, 59.1 IP, 54 K, 24 BB, 1.21 WHIP, .223 Opponent AVG

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .276, 14 2B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 31 SB (Called up to AAA Colorado Springs)

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 20 Prospect): 2-1, 1.53 ERA, 29.1 IP, 32 K, 5 BB, 0.75 WHIP, .165 AVG

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect): .251, 18 2B, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 18 SB at A Adv Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 23 Prospect): .252, 10 2B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 6 SB at A Wisconsin

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .279, 25 2B, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 7 SB at A Adv Carolina

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 29 Prospect): 1-2, 6.67 ERA, 29.2 IP, 33 K, 16 BB, 1.58 WHIP, .267 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Corey Knebel’s Resurgence

Corey Knebel was riding high coming into 2018. Fresh off an all-star appearance and a truly dominant season that saw him sport a 1.78 ERA over 76 appearances, he looked poised to continue his ascension towards being one of the elite relievers in the game today.

However, the baseball gods had other plans. Knebel was hampered by a knee injury in spring training, and did not look to have the same effectiveness. Then, on April 5th, he suffered a hamstring injury while pitching against the Cubs. He did not return until early May, and from then on he struggled to a 5.08 ERA in 39 innings pitched before being demoted to the minors on August 24th.

With the September roster expansion, the Brewers recalled Knebel hoping he could rediscover his 2017 dominance and help anchor the bullpen down the stretch. In 10 and 1/3 innings since his recall, Knebel has been nearly perfect. He has allowed no earned runs, held opponents to a .065 batting average, and has struck out 18 batters while walking only 2. He looks to have harnessed the command of his curveball, a pitch that is utterly dominant when it’s “on”. In addition, his confidence looks to be back, which is potentially the most important component of any relief pitcher.

Knebel’s revived success isn’t the result of luck either – advanced stats back up his improved performance. Based on QOPBaseball’s “Quality of Pitch” statistics, Knebel’s fastball and curveball quality have improved significantly since his September recall. His fastball’s quality rose from 4.56 to 5.30 (from MLB-average to Good/Great quality), and his curveball rose from 5.05 to 5.58 (from Good to Great quality).

Knebel’s addition to the bullpen could prove to be invaluable down the stretch. Given Craig Counsell’s careful bullpen management, the Brewers have been in a bit of a bind when those two are unavailable, having to use less reliable options like Dan Jennings and Taylor Williams in high leverage situations. Knebel changes that. His addition provides an elite option for Counsell to utilize when his other two “stoppers” can’t be used. Given a starter can go five or six innings, the Brewers should generally be in good hands if they have a Jeffress/Hader or Knebel/Burnes combo ready and available.

With October baseball looming, a Brewers bullpen with an effective Knebel could prove to be a huge advantage in the postseason. If Knebel is truly back, the Brewers have three all-star caliber relievers in himself, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress that can shut down an opposing lineup in the final innings on any given night.

Brewers Week In Review: July 17-23

Well, that was fast. The bad news? The Brewers lost nearly all of a 5.5 game lead in the NL Central following the All-Star Break in just over a week. This came mainly as a result of a stretch from Monday to Sunday in which Milwaukee won just 1 game out of 7 (1-2 vs. the Phillies, 0-4 vs. the Pirates). The good news? If there was ever a time for the Brewers to go on such a stretch, doing so when you start up by 5.5 games in the standings may be that time. With critical series and tough opponents ahead, the Crew needs to start stepping it up if they hope to not let this lead completely slip away.

With that being said, it’s time for a look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: @ Washington (7/25-7/27) and vs. Chicago Cubs (7/28-7/30)

Pitching matchups @ Washington: Zach Davies (11-4, 4.76 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-0, 4.50 ERA); Jimmy Nelson (8-5, 3.43 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (8-5, 2.83 ERA); Matt Garza (4-5, 3.83 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (11-5, 2.26 ERA)

Pitching matchups vs. Chicago: Jose Quintana (6-8, 4.22 ERA) vs. TBD; Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.95 ERA) vs. TBD; TBD vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner: Keon Broxton

This week in particular, when compared to other weeks, was quite difficult to come up with winners for these awards. After all, who could be considered “dominant” or who could have gone “balls to the wall” during a stretch in which a team goes just 1-6 over the course of a week? However, the show must indeed go on. This week, I went with what may be a peculiar choice, as Broxton was just sent down to AAA after a dismal hitting stretch in recent times. Despite this, Broxton continued to go all out defensively, including a great jumping catch in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh, a loss that was the Brewers’ fourth straight at the time. While Colorado Springs is the newest destination for the Milwaukee center fielder, here’s to hoping he can find his footing in Triple A and find his way back to the big leagues in the near future.

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Domingo Santana

Now, this award came down to Santana or Travis Shaw, but due to his contributions to Milwaukee’s lone win in the week, this week goes to Domingo Santana. His 2-4, 2 RBI performance on Saturday proved crucial in the team’s efforts, with his 9th inning single proving to be the decisive blow in a heart-stopping 9-8 victory for Milwaukee. Going forward into the next two series, it will be very important for players like Santana to step up even more and propel the Crew to victories.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Brent Suter

All year long, there has tended to be a trend with manager Craig Counsell and his starting pitchers. Oftentimes, he tends to take them out one or two batters too late, and something happens that puts the reliever in a tough spot (look no further than Junior Guerra on Tuesday). However, there are occasions where he possibly takes them out too early, as some fans argued he did in Saturday’s 9-8 win. Suter was cruising through 6 innings of 1 run ball with 5 strikeouts while just giving up 5 hits. However, Counsell elected to go to the bullpen in the 7th when Suter had thrown just 85 pitches. Now, all of us armchair managers out there don’t know whether Suter would have gotten torched or not in the 7th inning, but with what ended up being an 8-1 lead by the bottom of the inning, it would have possibly at least been worth putting him back out there to save some arms. Instead, while the Crew did get the W, the bullpen proceeded to blow that lead in just two innings, with Philly scoring 4 in the 7th and 3 in the 8th to tie the game at 8 before Santana’s go-ahead RBI single in the 9th.

Prospect Update (Post Mid-Season Update)

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .345, 22 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 11 SB

Brandon Woodruff (Brewers No. 4 Prospect; MLB.com’s #94 overall): 6-5, 4.79 ERA, 67.2 IP, 64 K, 22 BB, 1.33 WHIP, .259 Opponent AVG

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .272, 9 2B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 3 SB (23 games played with CS)

Ryan Cordell (Brewers No. 17 Prospect): .284, 18 2B, 5 3B, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 9 SB (traded to White Sox Tuesday)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #82 overall): 3-5, 3.79 ERA, 73.2 IP, 65 K, 31 BB, 1.18 WHIP, .211 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-2, 1.72 ERA, 52.1 IP, 53 K, 8 BB, 0.84 WHIP, .191 AVG

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #69 overall): .230, 20 2B, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 18 SB at A Adv Carolina

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #95 overall): 6 games: .423, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI at A Wisconsin

Isan Diaz (Brewers No. 6 Prospect; MLB.com’s #99 overall): .230, 18 2B, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 8 SB at A Adv Carolina

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .236, 23 2B, 9 HR, 53 RBI at A Adv Carolina

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 2-3, 5.54 ERA, 50.1 IP, 42 K, 21 BB, 1.41 WHIP, .258 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 19 Prospect): .275, 32 2B, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 7 SB at A Adv Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 26 Prospect): .239, 12 2B, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 8 SB at A Wisconsin