31.1 F
Milwaukee
Wednesday, December 12th 2018
Home Brewers

Brewers

CCC covering the Milwaukee Brewers

Brewers Infield Has Strength in Numbers

It’s no secret the Milwaukee Brewers boast a star-studded outfield. There’s a former MVP. (Perhaps) a future MVP. And a World Series champion who was MVP of the ALCS leading up to the World Series. While there’s certainly talent in the infield, that unit goes about things in a slightly different way.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Jesus Aguilar was an All-Star this season. It would be a surprise to exactly zero Brewer fans if Travis Shaw (or Orlando Arcia, for that matter) made All-Star games before their careers were over. That’s nothing to sneeze at

But whereas the outfield is a monsoon of talent, the Brewers infield is more of a pounding rain that just keeps coming … and coming.

Jesus Aguilar and Eric Thames bring a one-two, righty-lefty power bunch few teams can have. Why? Because most teams don’t have the versatility elsewhere to carry two players who can really only play first. (Though, to be fair, it wouldn’t be shocking if we didn’t see any Thames over the course of the postseason.) Shaw’s ability to move back and forth from third to first fills in that void should Thames (continue) to be left off the postseason roster.

That could mean more Mike Moustakas in the lineup, too. He also brings the same type of championship pedigree that Cain brings from Kansas City (and a player who’s a two-time All-Star in his own right). Moustakas has never been a big batting average guy, nor a huge power bat in the traditional sense. But he doesn’t strikeout much and puts pressure on the defense by putting the ball in play.

Utility man Hernan Perez allows all the other wheels to move. Knowing there’s a player that can virtually play all nine positions (remember, he’s pitched before, too!) in your back pocket allows Craig Counsell to take chances and be aggressive in seeking mismatches elsewhere. If it doesn’t work, sub in Perez. He might not bring the star power of other players on the roster, but he’s a gritty player that doesn’t do anything harmful to the Brewers’ chances of winning.

Jonathan Schoop (an All-Star in 2017) can be plugged in wherever needed. Though mainly thought of as second baseman, he was brought to Milwaukee at a time when they were searching for answers at shortstop. He was kind of an outside-the-box solution to the problem.

Now that Orlando Arcia has settled back in as an everyday shortstop, Schoop has proven to be a really sneaky good pickup. He might not get a ton of action going forward, but that’s exactly the point here: he’s overqualified for his role on the Brewers. As long as he’s cool with it and willing to sacrifice in the name of winning, Schoop is exactly what makes the infield an unrelenting downpour for opposing pitchers.

If an opposing team can avoid giving up the longball to Aguilar, likes their lefty/lefty matchups against Shaw and Moustakas, and can get Arcia to chase pitches out of the zone (as he’s prone to do), Counsell can turn to Schoop. Sure, his production has dropped his coming over from Baltimore, but you really think pitchers want to tempt fate by treating Schoop as an easy out?

That brings us to Orlando Arcia. It’s tempting to say Arcia’s season has been a roller coaster. But that’s not necessarily true. Roller coasters have ups and downs. Arcia’s season has been mostly down. Milwaukee gave him every opportunity to cement his name on the lineup card at short. He’s always been an elite-level defensive player. And should have a couple of Gold Gloves in his future. But he struggled at the plate for most of this pro career, especially for much of this season.

It was his bat that led to a midseason demotion to triple-A. But from Sept. 1st to Oct. 1st, he held a .329 batting average with a crazy .803 OPS. He’s never been much of a home run hitter, and likely never will be, but if he maintains good contact and hit some balls into the gaps he can use his legs to turn singles into doubles, doubles into the occasional triple. Essentially, his speed on the base paths translates into the equivalent of a player who’s raw power numbers are well beyond Arcia’s abilities at the plate.

Add it all up, and the Brewers have a title wave of talent up and down the lineup.

Brewers/Dodgers NLCS Preview

Oct 5, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress (32) celebrates after defeating the Colorado Rockies in game two of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

         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.

Hitting

*Below are the offensive statistics for players most likely to start in the 2018 Playoffs thru 10/11/18*

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 12.04.34 AM.png

           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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 12.21.51 AM.png

          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.  

Pitching

*Below are the pitching statistics for all pitchers in the 2018 Playoffs thru 10/11/18*

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 1.11.45 AM.png

           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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 2.08.46 AM.png

         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!

The Brewers “Broke” September

The Brewers have officially completed the hard part, getting to the postseason. You could look back at the individual successes and the great moments, or you could look at what got them to where they are. September was an exceptional month for the team, winning 9/10 series and having an overall record of 19-7. However, it’s not just for the cycles and home runs, its the strategy behind it.

 

September Call-ups

This started the heroic strategy of September. When you think of a September call-ups, you think of a team bringing in a few young guys to get experience or to add a little depth. The Brewers took this idea to the next level. They went from 25 guys to 36 guys in the dugout contributing to a postseason run.

 

Here is where they really got smart. They called up five pitchers and moved Junior Guerra to the bullpen, that turned an eight man pen into a 14 man pen. Every single pitcher who was in the bullpen at the start of September all had some sort of major league experience.

 

Starting Pitching

Going into the season, the starting pitching was something to be expected as a weak point. Over the course of the season, and September, the pitching has flourished. The pitchers have not been asked to do anything they can’t. They haven’t been asked to go seven innings every start and allow only two hits.

 

What they have been asked to do this September is pitch four to five innings and allow the bullpen take over. This month the average start is around 4.2 innings. The rest of the game has been covered by the bullpen  – A team strength. This works because they have 14 guys in the pen who can all perform very well. Both these points connect to the last point.

 

Dan Jennings Starting? “Out of the Box Thinking”

At the onset of the season, if you were to say that Dan Jennings would start a ballgame, disbelief would have overcome the moment. Even saying the word “start” doesn’t cover all bases. He came in and pitched the first at-bat to lefty Matt Carpenter. He pitched three pitches and got a ground ball out.

 

Then Freddy Peralta was called in to cover the next couple of innings. This plays into how Counsell manages the pitching staff. No one is called a closer, set-up man, or even a starter. He calls them all “out-getters”. Using the correct “out-getters” in the correct situations has resulted in winning all series in September except for one.

 

The Brewers have done some very interesting things this September and it has led to their first playoff berth in seven years. The way Counsell has managed this team has made them incredibly consistent with little fatigue. In a month were teams either press hard or prepare for the future they have kept an even attitude and keep finding ways to win.

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!

CC gives the ball to Gio with the division on the line

Today is the day, game 162 the final game of the 2018 regular season. For some teams they scratched their stars from starts, because they have nothing to play for. Milwaukee is not one of those teams. They’ll be handing the ball to Gio Gonzalez with a division title on the line. This will be Gio’s fifth start in a Brewer uniform. It will also be the most important. This game is huge and not just for the Brewers, but for Gio as well.

               Gio has pitched better in Milwaukee compared to Washington this season. He’s posted a 2.66 ERA in his first four starts with the Brewers as opposed to 4.57 in the nation’s capital. He’s also pitched into the fifth inning in 3 of his first 4 starts here as well. Length will be extremely important for the Brewers today. The Brewers bullpen has been used early and often all season, but especially in September. It’s been short start after short start for the starters. Corey Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, and Joakim Soria have all pitched in each of the first 2 games of this series. Now if CC needs these guys, there’s no doubt they’ll all be more than willing to take the ball. Josh Hader could also be available today. However, the biggest problem with this is they could potentially play on Monday and Tuesday as well.

               Locate the changeup, control the edges, get guys to chase the high fastball, and throw a few good curveballs to plant into hitter’s heads. That’s what Gio needs to think about today. There’s a ton on Gio’s shoulders today. If he can give this team a strong 6 innings and a win, he’ll be looked at as a hero and a great choice. However, if he has a bad start and can’t go deep into the game it becomes a big problem for Gio and the Brewers. A bad start today and Gio may not get a playoff start and this would be a terrible look going into free agency for him. Not only is this get a must get for Milwaukee, but Gio needs to have a strong showing as well. A division title, a fresh bullpen for two potential one-game play ins, playoff starts, and a contract. Those are all the things Gio Gonzalez will be pitching for today. You couldn’t stress enough the magnitude of today’s start for Gio.

How David Stearns Made Milwaukee Win Again

After ending a disappointing 32 games outside of first place in 2015, the Brewers decided to part ways with former General Manager, Doug Melvin. Under Melvin’s reign, Milwaukee had made the playoffs twice, the NLDS in 2008, and the NLCS in 2011. However, while making the playoffs twice, Melvin missed out 11 times over 13 years.

Enter David Stearns. Three years later, for the first time since 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers have clinched a postseason spot. The Crew are currently in the Wild Card Game, however they’re only a half game out of the NL Central lead. Whether it was picking up All-Star Jesus Aguilar off waivers or trading for MVP candidate Christian Yelich, we take a look into how David Stearns has made the Brewers one of the best teams in the National League.

  1. Tyler Thornburg traded to Boston Red Sox for Travis Shaw and three prospects. (Offseason, 2016)

Ranking 25th in runs scored, and 15th in Homeruns, Stearns went on the hunt for a power hitter. After Tyler Thornburg finished the 2016 season with a 2.13 ERA, Stearns sold high, getting Travis Shaw and three prospects. Stearns would prove to be the winner, as Thornburg did not play in 2017 due to surgery on his right shoulder. Shaw however, was one of the teams MVPs, hitting .273, with 101 runs batted in and 31 home runs. In 2018, Shaw consistently bats fourth for Milwaukee and currently has 31 home runs and 85 runs batted in.

2. Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas Rangers for Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell. (8/1/16)

 

As much as trading Lucroy hurt me as a Brewers fan, it ended up being one of the biggest moves in franchise history. Stearns, willing to rebuild, picked up two first round draft picks in Brinson and Ortiz. In addition the Rangers added their sixth overall prospect, Ryan Cordell, to finish the deal. Seen as a rebuild move at the time, trading for Lewis Brinson would play a big role in the acquisition of Christian Yelich. Milwaukee has since traded Texas back for Jeffress.

3. Jesus Aguilar claimed off waivers from Cleveland Indians. (2/2/17)

During the beginning of the Year in 2018, Jesus’ primary role was a pinch hitter. And man was he good. Walk off after walk off, Jesus worked his way into the Brewers lineup and has been making a major impact ever since. Aguilar has hit .275, tied second in the National League with 34 home runs, and is top ten for runs batted in, with 105. His consistent bat has helped propel Milwaukee from a middle of the road ball club, to leading the National League in wins.

4. Brewers sign Jhoulys Chacin from San Diego Padres for a Two Year Deal. (12/20/17) 

Not knowing when Ace Jimmy Nelson would return, Stearns looked to add a great starting pitcher. In Chacin, the GM felt comfort, as the veteran put up steady numbers in San Diego. While taking over as the ace, Chacin has done wonders. Logging fifteen wins and only eight losses, Chacin finished the regular season with a 3.56 ERA and 1.182 WHIP. With 187 innings of work and 34 games started, Chacin will be the probable starter for the Wild Card Game.

5. Prospects Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto to Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich. (1/25/18)

One of the more shocking trades of the MLB this offseason was the Brewers acquisition of OF Christian Yelich. Throughout the season, trading for Yelich has paid dividends. The MVP candidate leads the National League in average, slugging, on base + slugging and runs created. He is second in runs and wins above replacement, while also being sixth for on base percentage. Christian Yelich has brought Milwaukee to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and fifth time in franchise history. Oh, and did I mention we have him until 2022?

6. Free Agent Lorenzo Cain signed to a 5 year/$80 million deal from Kansas City. (1/25/18)

Within hours of trading for OF Christian Yelich, GM David Stearns wasn’t done filling his outfield. Originally drafted by the Brewers, Cain was traded away to Kansas City. After winning a World Series, the two time all-star has returned home and is putting up insane numbers. Cain leads the National league with a wins above replacement of 7.0. He is in second for on base percentage and fourth for batting average and stolen bases. Cain has been a wonderful leadoff hitter for the crew, and an even better outfielder ranking second in defensive wins above replacement.

7. Wendell Rijo to New York Yankees for Erik Kratz. (6/16/18)

When originally acquired from the Yankees, Kratz’s job was to backup Manny Pina at Catcher. Since being in Milwaukee, Kratz has played in 63 games, batting .251 and having a .297 on base percentage. The Catcher has been a breath of fresh air, adding depth to Milwaukee’s lineup.

8. Kodi Medeiros and Wilber Perez to Chicago White Sox for Joakim Soria and Cash. (7/26/18)

Needing a key SP heading into the trade deadline, David Stearns went a different direction. The 33 year old GM added a veteran reliever to increase depth in the bullpen. In 2018, Soria has posted a 3.22 ERA with a 1.176 WHIP.

9. Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez to Kansas City Royals for Mike Moustakas. (7/27/18)

Needing a bat in the lineup but still an excellent infielder, Stearns set out to get Moose. In 2018, Moose has hit .250, with 28 home runs and 93 runs batted in. Not only did the Brewers upgrade in hitting, but acquiring Moose meant the Brewers could move Shaw to second base and trade away Jonathan Villar.

10. Jonathan Villar and two Prospects to Baltimore Orioles for Jonathan Schoop. (8/1/18)

With Jonathan Villar struggling at the plate and Travis Shaw getting the nod to play second base, Schoop was a perfect pickup for Milwaukee. Before being traded, the former All-Star had won AL Player of the Week honors. Even though his year hasn’t been tremendous, Schoop can pay dividends for the Brewers in years to come, as he is signed until 2019.

11. KJ Harrison and Gilbert Lara to Washington Nationals for Gio Gonzalez and Cash. (9/1/18)

Looking for a consistent LHP, the Brewers acquired Gio Gonzalez. While he struggled in D.C. with a 4.57 ERA, he has been lights out with the Crew. In four appearances, Gonzalez has gone 2-0, with a 2.66 ERA and a .984 WHIP.

12. Demi Orimoloye to Toronto Blue Jays for Curtis Granderson (9/1/18).

In the same day as Gonzalez, Granderson was traded to the Brewers. The polished veteran has done wonders for the Brewers in the outfield as the health for Cain and Braun being a concern. With Ryan Braun’s age comes injuries, and Granderson has filled in nicely. When in the lineup, Granderson hits leadoff, as his on base percentage is .385 with the Crew. While he might not start in the Wild Card Game, Granderson would be a perfect fit for a pinch hit at-bat against a RHP in the Playoffs.

Brewers 2018 Postseason Projected Lineup:

  1. Cain CF
  2. Yelich RF
  3. Aguilar 1B
  4. Shaw 2B
  5. Braun LF
  6. Moose 3B
  7. Kratz C
  8. Arcia SS
  9. Chacin P

*Bolded names are players who weren’t apart of the organization before Stearns was GM*

It’s safe to say Stearns has had one busy year with the Brewers, and his hard work is paying off. Milwaukee is currently twenty five games over .500, and only half a game back of the Cubs. While popping champagne bottles after clinching a playoff spot, Counsell told ESPN, “We have the weapons to win the World Series…we’re deep enough where I think we can make a good run”. With that being said, you can’t help but think David Stearns has had a major role in the Brewers success thus far.

 

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.

The Comeback Kid: Gio Gonzalez

At the end of the trade waiver deadline David Stearns made a jump for starting pitching depth and acquired lefty Gio Gonzalez. The two time All-Star struggled earlier this year with the Nationals, but got his second chance with the Brewers. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

 

Year Team FIP K% WHIP ERA
2018 WSN 4.24 19.5% 1.53 4.57
2018 MIL 2.81 28.1% 0.92 1.65

 

Since being traded to Milwaukee, Gonzalez has made three starts, and has dominated. By the stats above prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt.  His improvement as a pitcher and his contribution to the Brewers is striking. He has proved that he can be a pitcher the Brewers can count on going into the postseason. Gonzalez has put together great starts, but his one on Wednesday stands out.

 

On Wednesday night, Gonzalez led the crew to a 7-0 win against the Reds to take the series. He went six innings on a two hit shutout with 5 SO and 2 BB. Craig Counsell has usually let a pitcher run five innings and lets the fiery bullpen take over. For Gonzalez to go six proves his effectiveness, and for those who didn’t watch, he was cruising. The last time a Brewers starter went more than five innings was actually Gonzalez on Sept. 8 going 5.2 innings.

 

Counsell stated this on Gio going six innings, “He was on cruise control. He pitched really really well.”

Counsell also touched on his overall performance as a Brewer, “We’ve given him the ball three times and won 3 games. It’s working out well.”

 

You can’t say enough about Gio Gonzalez, he got traded from a team he was very comfortable with and came to a new environment and has performed. He has done very well and has kept focused on helping lead this team to a playoff berth.

Acquiring Curtis Granderson more than just a ball player

The Brewers acquired Curtis Granderson right before the August 31st waiver trade deadline. The Brewers sent Demi Orimoloye a High-A outfielder to Toronto in return. The Brewers went out to acquire Grandy for 2 reasons. 1. He’s a good left-handed bat off the bench. 2. He brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse. Both attributes are important for any team to have when making a run in October.

Why the Brewers needed a left-handed bat

               Now the Brewers weren’t expecting Grandy to slash .300/.548/.700 when they made this trade, however they were expecting him to give them good quality at-bats. Before acquiring Granderson the Brewers only boasted only 4 left-handed batters. Three of which play just about every day (Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas, and Christian Yelich), with the fourth being Eric Thames. The move for Granderson was most likely because of the latter. With the emergence of Jesús Aguilar Thames was moved to the outfield. However, a myriad of cringeworthy defense and poor at-bats he went from starting first baseman to right fielder to the bench. Thames’ 34.1% K percentage is the biggest issue. Enter Granderson a veteran bat off the bench who can give you better at-bats than Thames can at the moment.

Why the Brewers (and every contender) need a veteran presence

               Guys like Curtis Granderson are so desirable this time of year, but not just because of their ability to produce on the field. Grandy has been around the majors for a while, 15 seasons to be exact. Granderson has also played in plenty of post-season baseball as well. He’s amassed 237 playoff plate appearances. With 25 of those being in the 2015 World Series with the New York Mets. That type of experience can’t be taught or isn’t a skill, it’s earned over a long illustrious career. A stabilizer like Granderson will help the Brewers avoid too high of highs and too low of lows. He’s in there to keep everyone level-headed and ready to go. Grandy is also a good mentor for the young players on the team. He’s already had a connection mentoring a player in the Milwaukee Organization. He mentors Brewers stud outfield prospect Corey Ray.

               Now the Brewers can’t expect Granderson to keep having such a gaudy slash line. However, they can expect him to keep being a positive influence and have good at-bats. With Granderson the main thing you’re getting is where he’s been and who he is as a person, anything you get on the field is a bonus. No longer are you getting the 40+ homerun power 20+ stolen base speed, but you’re getting Curtis Granderson the mentor.

Best Defense vs Best Offense

Being in contention for the playoffs and eventually moving on into the playoffs takes a great offense and defense. The Brewers are in a spot where they have players to fit both of those categories, but do they align. The Brewers have been very successful this season playing with matchups. Moving into the last two weeks of the season and hopefully in the playoffs, they may need to tighten things up a bit.

 

To give a quick overview, the stats used in this piece will be focusing on manufacturing runs and taking them away from the other team. Here’s the rundown. For offensive stats, there is wOBA (weighted on base average) and wRAA (weighted runs above average). wOBA is fairly common and is similar to OPS. Instead of OBP and SLG being equal, OBP is worth nearly two times than SLG (1.8 be exact). wRAA is how many runs a player contributes to his team above the average 0.

 

As for defensive stats, there are different ones depending on the position, but the common stat in all is DRS (defensive runs saved). DRS is one of the more generic defensive stats and calculates how many runs a player saves above the average 0. For the outfield, rARM is a great option. It weighs how many extra bases an outfielder takes away with his arm. RZR (revised zone rating) is going to be used for 1B and 3B, it is the proportion of balls hit into the players zone that are turned into outs. For 2B, rGDP (double play runs saved runs above average) which takes into account how many runs a fielder saves above the average 0 by turning double plays. Lastly, the SS stat will be OOZ (out of zone plays made) which is how many plays a fielder makes out of his zone. (Stats as of 9/16)

 

Top Notch Offense

 

Outfield

Player wOBA wRAA
Ryan Braun .316 0.06
Curtis Granderson .350 10.6
Christian Yelich .400 41.2
Keon Broxton .307 -0.05
Lorenzo Cain .367 24.4
Domingo Santana .298 -3
Hernan Perez .300 -3.9

 

Infield

Player wOBA wRAA
Jesus Aguilar .373 24.3
Eric Thames .332 3.8
Hernan Perez .300 -3.9
Jonathan Schoop .293 -8.5
Mike Moustakas .332 8.3
Travis Shaw .347 14.4
Orlando Arcia .240 -19.7
Tyler Saladino .318 0.04

Catcher

Player wOBA wRAA
Erik Kratz .285 -4.5
Jacob Nottingham .277 -0.7
Manny Pina .301 -3.5

 

RF- Curtis Granderson, CF-Lorenzo Cain, LF- Christian Yelich, 1B- Jesus Aguilar, 2B- Travis Shaw, SS- Tyler Saladino, 3B- Mike Moustakas, C- Manny Pina

 

These guys who are in this lineup have definitely earned their spot. When looking at the run producing stats some of them have put up exponential numbers. One surprise may be in Tyler Saladino, but numbers don’t lie. Otherwise, most of these guys you would expect to make this lineup. As fans, we see them everyday making huge impacts on the offensive game. The question is how many transfer over to the best defense lineup.

 

Outfield

Player rARM DRS
Ryan Braun -1 5
Curtis Granderson 2 -4
Christian Yelich -5 2
Keon Broxton 2 12
Lorenzo Cain 4 19
Domingo Santana 1 6
Hernan Perez 2 3

 

1B

Player RZR DRS
Eric Thames .794 -2
Jesus Aguilar .783 7

 

2B

Player rGDP DRS
Travis Shaw -1 -1
Hernan Perez 0 -2
Jonathan Schoop 3 3
Tyler Saladino 0 -1

 

SS

Player OOZ DRS
Orlando Arcia 67 3
Hernan Perez 7 2
Tyler Saladino 24 4
Jonathan Schoop 3 1

 

3B

Player RZR DRS
Mike Moustakas .726 5
Travis Shaw .750 0
Hernan Perez .808 0
Tyler Saladino .875 0

 

Catcher

Player rSB DRS
Erik Kratz -2 0
Jacob Nottingham 0 1
Manny Pina 2 4

 

RF- Keon Broxton, CF- Lorenzo Cain, LF- Domingo Santana, 1B- Jesus Aguilar, 2B- Jonathan Schoop, SS- Orlando Arcia, 3B- Mike Moustakas, C- Manny Pina

 

Like I said before, all of these guys have done their part to earn these numbers. Although, a few are surprises. One is LF. No offense to Domingo Santana, but from an everyday playing aspect you would expect Christian Yelich to have it in the bag. Overall, in the duration of the season all of them have had defensive highlights that make you say, “How’d he just do that?”  

 

Brewer’s management have assembled a team that plays both great defense and offense. It is the elite players who are able to perform well on both sides. The players who were featured twice on this list were, Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar, and Manny Pina. Are you that surprised? All four of them have proven that they have the ability to be elite in both sides. We have all watched them throughout the season and have been in awe.

 

Continuing to be in the playoff race and hopefully in the playoffs, these four guys – and others –  will be major factors. If Counsell is able to send someone on the field feeling 100% confident on their offense and defense, there is no doubt the Brewers would be able to make a run for the World Series.