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Sunday, February 17th 2019
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Brewers Offseason Outlook: Top 10 Prospects

The MLB offseason brings all kinds of speculation for Brewers fans. Who will be signed? Will any significant trades be made? How is the minor-league pipeline looking, and can any prospects fill holes on the roster? In this three-piece “Brewers Offseason Outlook” series, I will examine each of those three areas and try to provide answers and context.

First off, we will focus on the prospects. I am offering my personal organizational top-10, and will highlight the chances each has at contributing to the big-league club in 2019. Here we go:

  1. Marcos Diplan, RHP

A 22-year-old right hander from the Dominican Republic, Diplan has the potential to be a mid-rotation arm. His fastball and slider both flash plus potential, but “flash” is the key word there. He has battled inconsistency throughout the past two years, as his below average control had led him astray at times. He walked nearly six batters per nine innings in 2018, but was able to maintain a solid ERA of 4.03 while spending time in both Class A-Advanced and Double A. Diplan still has some ways to go before being major-league ready, but he has the chance to be a valuable piece to either the Brewers’ rotation or bullpen in the future. If we see him in 2019, it will almost certainly be in the bullpen.

2019 Contribution Potential: Low

  1. Jacob Nottingham, C

Nottingham came to the Brewers in David Stearns’ first offseason as the key prospect in the return for Khris Davis. Nottingham has evolved quite a bit as a prospect since then. His power bat was originally supposed to be his calling card to a big-league future, but he has now transformed into an all-around catcher that is more solid defensively than offensively. He has an above average arm that should help him adequately control potential base-stealers. At the plate, his power has yet to fully materialize, but he should be able to sustain a reasonable slash line for a catcher. With Erik Kratz hitting free agency, Nottingham could have an opportunity to step into a large role in 2019 should the Brewers not seek any outside catching help.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

  1. Joe Gray, OF

Gray was the Brewers’ second-round draft pick this past June. He carries a lot of similar traits to former Brewers prospect Monte Harrison, in that both were extremely raw skill-wise and athletically gifted upon being drafted. Gray had a tough time adjusting in rookie-ball after signing, hitting .182/.347/.325 in 24 games for the Arizona League Brewers. However, he possesses all the tools necessary to become a dynamic player at the big-league level. Gray’s development will certainly take time, but if all goes right he could be an athletic, middle-of-the-order outfielder.

2019 Contribution Potential: None

  1. Mauricio Dubon, SS/2B

Dubon was primed for a call-up in May of this year to help fix the Brewers’ middle infield struggles after he started the season hot in Triple A, hitting .343/.348/.574 through his first 27 games. Fate would have it differently, however, as Dubon suffered a season ending ACL tear that removed him from the Brewers’ immediate plans. Dubon offers versatility as a player that has the defensive skills to succeed at either second base or shortstop, while also providing a solid bat and above-average speed. Barring another injury, Dubon should be in Milwaukee at some point in 2019 as either a platoon infielder or bench piece, and could potentially make the Opening Day roster if he stands out in Spring Training.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

  1. Lucas Erceg, 3B

As the Brewers’ second-round draft pick in 2016, Erceg immediately impressed with his abilities at the plate, hitting .327/.376/.518 in his first professional season. His performance has been less impressive since, as he most recently produced a slash line of .248/.306/.382 with the Double A Biloxi Shuckers. Erceg offers potential above average power, and has an absolute cannon for an arm at third base. He also is fairly good at managing the strike zone, as he achieved a solid strikeout rate of 16%. Erceg will likely not be a significant contributor in 2019 due to Travis Shaw’s presence at third base, but could be added as a bench bat down the stretch if he heats up in the minors, or if an injury bug hits the Brewers’ infielder core.

2019 Contribution Potential: Medium

  1. Tristen Lutz, OF

After being a supplemental first-round pick for the Brewers in 2017, Lutz impressed in his first full season in 2018. After a slow start, Lutz went on to hit .263/.346/.456 in the second half, performing especially well in the month of July when he posted a .967 OPS. Lutz profiles as a prototypical power-hitting right fielder, where he can utilize his plus arm strength in the field and slot in as a middle-of-the-order bat. Lutz is a prospect that could potentially take off in 2019 if everything comes together, and he possesses one of the highest ceilings in the system. Lutz doesn’t look to have a chance to factor in for the Crew in 2019 given the amount of development still needed, with the most likely way he contributes being as a trade chip.

2019 Contribution Potential: None

  1. Zack Brown, RHP

After quietly putting up two nice campaigns following being drafted as a fifth-rounder in 2016, Brown burst onto the scene in 2018 with his elite performance, pitching to a 2.44 ERA and a 9-1 record in 21 games started. Brown relies on an above-average fastball/curveball combo, with his changeup acting a reliable third offering. Brown has at times been marked down for having inconsistent command, but that did not appear to be too large of an issue in 2018 as he posted a 2.58 BB/9 ratio. Brown strikes out hitters enough to be an effective starter at the next level (8.31 K/9), and profiles as a mid-rotation workhorse at the next level. Brown could potentially contribute in the rotation in 2019 if his performance or an injury to a starter warrants it, but he is more likely to play a role as a high leverage middle reliever like Corbin Burnes did this year. If he performs well in Triple-A, expect him to be available for a call-up sometime in June.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

  1. Brice Turang, SS

After being lauded as the potential first overall pick in the 2018 draft for multiple years, scouts cooled off somewhat on Turang as a high school senior, causing him to fall to the Brewers’ first round selection at number 21. Turang grades out as at least above-average across the board in every category except for his power, which is currently below-average but could improve as he fills out his frame. Turang is extremely fluid in the field, making the likelihood he sticks at shortstop long-term very high. He certainly could also play second base if needed, and could even make a shift to centerfield given his arm strength and speed. Turang displayed an advanced hitting approach in his first taste of professional baseball, walking 16% of the time and keeping his strikeout rate below 20%. While his slash line of .283/.396/.352 shows the lack of power currently present, it should be viewed with optimism that he possesses such solid on-base skills, with increases in the power department serving merely as complements to this already considerable strength of his. Turang will not contribute in 2019, but could be a special player for the Crew in the future.

2019 Contribution Potential: None

  1. Corey Ray, OF

Ray came to Milwaukee with sky-high expectations as the fifth overall selection in the 2016 draft. As an athletic outfielder with great physical tools, Ray was expected to be a potential franchise cornerstone that could move quickly through the minor leagues. Two uninspiring seasons in the minors put some of that hype to rest, but a resurgent 2018 campaign added some fuel back to the fire. Ray greatly increased his power output, hitting 27 home runs and posting a .477 slugging percentage. He also proved his value as a threat on the bases, stealing 37 of them. However, he did display some swing and miss concerns, striking out nearly 30% of the time and hitting for an overall average of .239. Those numbers will need to improve for Ray to reach his ceiling, but he is an exciting prospect that could definitely provide value as a fourth outfielder or bench bat in 2019.

2019 Contribution Potential: Medium

  1. Keston Hiura, 2B

Regarded by all as the jewel of the Brewers system, Hiura offers an offensive ceiling that is among the best in all of baseball. It is topped amongst prospects perhaps only by Vlad Guerrero Jr., who has been dubbed as a generational hitting talent. Hiura put his offensive chops on full display in 2017 following his selection as the Brewers’ first round pick, hitting .371/.422/.611 across two levels of the minor leagues. He followed that up with a strong 2018 campaign in which he hit .293/.357/.464, and augmented this success by winning the MVP in the Arizona Fall League with a .323/.371/.563 slash that included 5 home runs and 33 RBI in just 23 games. This is a huge accomplishment, as most teams send their top prospects to the Arizona Fall League. While Hiura is considered elite at the plate, he still has some work to do on his second base defense, but this was to be expected considering the arm issues he had experienced in the past. With a second base hole looming on the major-league roster right now, many Brewers fan will be clamoring for Hiura to start the season in the lineup. Due to the Brewers wanting to delay the start of his major-league service time clock, and not to mention wanting to give him extra seasoning before facing major league pitching, Hiura will likely start the season in the minor leagues, but it would not be a surprise if he takes over the second base job at some point during the 2019 campaign.

2019 Contribution Potential: High

The Brewers Won the Christian Yelich Trade Before the Season Started

The name of the game for small market teams like Milwaukee and Miami, is to build a team with young controllable talent. The Brewers have had success with that strategy with guys like Orlando Arcia, Corbin Burnes, and Josh Hader.

They also found it with a small trade you might of heard of, The trade for then Miami outfielder Christian Yelich in January. This isn’t going to be an article saying “We all saw this MVP year coming.” Truth is no one saw a season like this coming. When you look at his stat progression over the years however, the Marlins blundered in a HUGE way!

My first confusion with this trade is from the Marlins side. Why didn’t they build the team around Yelich? Like I said before, small market teams are built around young controllable talent. Yelich, at the time, was a 26 year old up and coming outfielder who was controllable for many years, on a team friendly contract. WHY DIDN’T THEY BUILD THEIR TEAM AROUND HIM?

I really don’t understand the thought process. From trades of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, they received a boatload of talented prospects with bright futures. The idea of using Yelich as a backbone, with players like that progressing in the minors, is a scary thought. Think of how the Brewers used Braun as a backbone as they progressed through a rebuild. That one kind of worked out for the Brewers.

The second and most prominent point is Yelich’s stat progression. Since he has come up to the big leagues his linear progression is very impressive. Down below are graphs representing his growth over the years. These graphs do not include this past season for further proof that Yelich was progressing to be a star before his MVP season. In both wOBA and WAR he has a steep slope going in the right direction. I won’t go into the math and process behind it, mostly because I don’t want to bore you. However, using this gives you a great look visually on a players progression.

                               

This first set of graphs are representing Yelich’s War (wins above replacement) from the ages of 21-25. The first graph is year by year plotted out. You can see that there is quite a few ups and downs and doesn’t give you a full picture. This is where the second graph comes into play. Think of it as averaging the ups and downs to a straight line. As you can see this line goes by a steep positive slope, which shows rapid improvement overall, year by year.

             

The next graphs show wOBA (weighted on base average- similar to OPS but OBP is worth 1.8 times more than SLG). wOBA is one of my favorite stats and I think can be the most telling. Like before the first graph shows the raw plotted out data, while the second shows the average line. The second line may not be the most exciting to look at or as visually appealing as the first data set, however, it is just as good. Since wOBA is a decimal stat, the values aren’t as big as WAR. When you zoom in you can see that it is another flourishing positive incline.

Although using graphs may tap into my baseball geekiness, they are still a great representation of a players progression. Using graphs in the argument  proves that Yelich was growing into star potential. Even though no one saw it coming this quick, it was to be expected at some point. David Stearns has mentioned that Yelich is a player that he  kept his eye on since taking over the GM position. Even without a breakout season like 2018, Yelich proved to be an impact player, and explains why Stearns kept his eye on him.

Again bringing us back to the initial point of this piece. Why did the Marlins trade away a gem in Yelich? Maybe it was the intriguing prospect haul that was given in return, which is another story in itself. Anyways, it is crystal clear that Yelich would have been an impact player anywhere. I still don’t quite understand why he wasn’t a base for a rebuild, being the type of player with his contract. Yet, I think Brewers’ fans are happy it happened the way it did. As Billy Beane would say, “When your enemy’s making a mistake, don’t interrupt them.”

The Brewers Should Trade For J.T. Realmuto

J.T. Realmuto was the best catcher in the MLB last season. He was one of the only bright spots on a horrible Miami Marlins team. Last year, Realmuto played in 125 games and had a .277 batting average with 21 homers. Also, he had a .340 on-base percentage, a .484 slugging percentage, 74 runs batted in, 30 doubles, and 3 triples. Another remarkable stat was that J.T. had an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .825 while the league average for catchers was .678. His great year at the plate allowed him to lead all catchers in wins above replacement with the second place guy over a game behind him. Realmuto is just entering his prime as he will be turning 28 years old next season and is coming off his first All-Star game. It has been publicly known that J.T. wants out of Miami and his agent has made it clear, he will not sign an extension after the next 2 years of his contract are up.

(Photo via Eric Espada, Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Brewers had a stellar 2018 campaign but a team can always get better. Adding Realmuto behind the plate would be an upgrade from last year’s Manny Pina and Erik Kratz. Together Pina and Kratz combined for 165 game appearances, a .244 batting average, and a .294 on-base percentage. They also combined for a .375 slugging percentage with 15 homers, 51 runs batted in, 19 doubles, and 2 triples. These numbers are fine but Realmuto eclipsed them by himself in less games. Sure, Kratz became a fan-favorite and Pina has a rocket for an arm but there is no denying J.T. can add another dynamic element to Milwaukee’s lineup. Barstool Sports baseball analyst, Jared Carrabis, believes the Brewers should have Realmuto as one of their number one targets this off-season. I agree, J.T. Realmuto is a great catcher entering his prime, there is no reason the Brewers should not make an offer

After an outstanding season where the Brewers made the National League Championship, they only have one place to go. The World Series. Of course, the Brewers would have to get rid of a few top prospects in order to land Realmuto. However, the window for championships are small and the Brewers are just entering theirs. Now is the time to capitalize. Other teams like the Phillies, Braves, Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers have been thrown into the Realmuto mix so Milwaukee will have to make a tantalizing offer. Top prospects like Keston Hiura, Marcos Diplan, Peyton Henry, Zack Brown, and Jacob Nottingham are a few of the names people can expect to hear if the Brewers are going to go after the All-Star catcher. Any package would have to definitely include Hiura and one of the pitchers like Diplan or Brown. Milwaukee hasn’t had a dynamic player behind the dish since Jonathan Lucroy in 2014 and adding Realmuto would make the Brewers favorites in the National League. So please David Stearns, work your magic and go after J.T. Realmuto.

The Voices of Wisconsin Sports: Dario Melendez

He may be the “new guy on the block” but Dario Melendez has already become a fan favorite. Dario joined Fox Sports Wisconsin in March of this year. His coverage of the Milwaukee Brewers has been nothing short of fantastic. Alongside Jerry Augustine, Brewers Live quickly became one of the more entertaining parts of the Brewers broadcasts.

He joined the Fox Sports Wisconsin team at the right time. 2018 was one of, if not the best, seasons ever for a Milwaukee Brewers team. Now, he gets to cover the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have been on the rise for the last couple of seasons as we all know, and now, Dario Melendez will bring Bucks coverage to Wisconsin sports fans on Fox Sports Wisconsin as well.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dario.

Kyle Hoffenbecker: How did you get involved in journalism and ultimately sports journalism?

Dario Melendez: I was always involved in sports. I was blessed to receive a scholarship from Sacred Heart University to play football. I always had aspirations to play in the NFL but once I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I wanted to find a career where I could still be active in sports. I ultimately channeled my energy into journalism. This career is not for someone who won’t work hard. Participating in sports helped give me that work ethic to succeed in this business.

KH: What led you to work for Fox Sports Wisconsin?

DM: After I graduated from Sacred Heart, I traveled down to Fort Myers, Florida to be a part-time producer for a TV station. From there I’ve worked for ESPN, Fox Sports Radio in the Fort Myers area, WISN in Milwaukee, and New York 1 News. I came back to work for Fox Sports Wisconsin because I was familiar with the area after working for WISN.

KH: What is your favorite part about your job? Also, what is your favorite memory from the business?

DM:  I loved working in Fort Myers right after I got out of college. After working all day, everyone would go out and party at night. I was making about $13,000 at the time, so I was living off of 7-11 and Little Caesar’s pizza too. It wasn’t glamorous but it was definitely a fun time.

KH: You interact with fans a lot on social media. Is that something you have always done in your career? Or is that something you have started to do recently?

DM: I’ve always interacted with fans throughout my career. Social media has allowed me to do it more often than ever before, but I’ve always done it. I’m fascinated by how curious fans are in the information I give them. I’m always interested in what fans have to say as well. One thing I have to watch out for is internet trolls, though. I’ve encountered my fair share of them over the years.

KH: What is the coolest sports event you’ve ever been able to cover?

DM: When I was working for WISN, I was able to cover the Packers 2010 Super Bowl run. I was fortunate enough to travel with the team to Dallas to watch them win the Super Bowl. In Fort Myers, I covered the Super Bowl when it was in Miami and Tampa Bay, but I never covered a specific team in the Super Bowl.

KH: You mentioned earlier that you worked for ESPN. What was it like working there?

DM: ESPN was a huge part in my career. I met my wife at ESPN. One of the coolest things ESPN does for its on-air talent is provide classes that help you improve as a broadcaster. I took advantage of those optional classes and use the advice I learned in my work today.

KH: One of my favorite moments from the Milwaukee Brewers season was the 12-game win streak. For those who may not know, you wore zip-tie cufflinks for every game during that stretch. How did that all start?

DM: It was actually a brain fart on my end. I normally don’t wear cuffed shirts, but I decided to wear a one for a Brewers/Pirates game one day. I forgot cufflinks for the shirt, so I had to scrounge around the Fox Sports Wisconsin studios looking for something that I could use instead of cufflinks. I tried paper clips, but those didn’t work. I eventually found some zip-ties and they just happened to work.

KH: What made you keep wearing them? I’m sure the zip-ties weren’t the most comfortable thing to have on.

DM: The Brewers were going through a rough stretch at the time. They were five games or so back in the NL Central race and they were barely hanging onto a wild card spot, after they won that game, the inner athlete came out in me. I was superstitious as an athlete and I became superstitious with the zip-ties. I didn’t mention it to anyone until the Brewers swept the Cardinals to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2011. The Brewers kept winning, so I kept wearing them!

Why Keeping Josh Hader in the Bullpen Makes Perfect Sense

Another offseason, another six months of controversy surrounding the Brewers’ usage of Josh Hader. It has pretty much become tradition at this point, right?

Although Craig Counsell seemingly put the issue to rest in his post-season press conference, I anticipate that Twitter and the Brewers’ Facebook comments thread will be filled with fans vouching for Hader to be inserted into the starting rotation. Hopefully, this article changes their minds and illustrates the vital impact that Hader has as an elite “fireman” out of the bullpen.

What is a “fireman”, you may ask? A fireman is a reliever utilized in high leverage situations regardless of the inning, often pitching multiple innings if needed. I was introduced to the concept in Brian Kenny’s book “Ahead of the Curve”, and it fits Josh Hader’s role perfectly.

The Brewers typically save Hader for situations with the Brewers holding a close lead, and insert Hader to shut down the opposing team’s lineup. This could occur in the 5th inning, or the 9th inning, or the 3rd inning as we saw in the NLCS. The point is, Hader pitches when it matters most, allowing the Brewers to maximize on his utilization. He is a true fireman, getting the Brewers out of the most desperate of situations.

Using Hader in this manner has allowed him to significantly impact the Brewers’ chances of winning in nearly every appearance. Fangraphs tracks a statistic called “Win Probability Added”, which is described as follows:

“WPA captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning.” (link for further reading, if interested).

One important take away from this definition is that the statistic is not context neutral. With ERA, all runs are created equal. A run given up in the 9th inning of a tie game is counted in the exact same way as a run given up in the 5th inning of a blowout. WPA, however, tracks the change in win probability which resulted from that run being given up, which would be a large decrease in the case of a 9th inning tie and only a marginal one in the case of a 5th inning blowout. This makes success in high leverage situations much more valuable, which better reflects the realities of player performance.

So, how does this relate to Hader? Well, as a relief pitcher, Josh Hader achieved the 13th best WPA of all pitchers in 2018 (for those wondering, Jeremy Jeffress finished 5th).  In fact, Hader finished ahead of elite starters such as Gerrit Cole, Mike Foltynewicz, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, and many, many more. Of the 12 names ahead of Hader, 9 are starting pitchers. To emphasize: only 9 starting pitchers impacted their team’s chances of winning as much as Hader did for the Brewers.

By performing at the level that he does in the situations the Brewers place him, Hader affects the Brewers chances of winning much more as a reliever than he could as a starter. As big of a Hader fan as I am, I do not think that he would perform well enough in a starting role to place him in a WPA position that is better than all but 9 starters in the league. While he certainly would be an effective and valuable starter, he would not provide the same high leverage utility that he does in his current fireman role.

The beauty of Hader as a fireman is that the Brewers get to pick the spots where he can most impact their chances of winning. Should he be a starter, the Brewers could essentially waste his shutdown innings if they take a large early lead, say 6-0 after 2 innings. While Hader would still be providing value in the form of putting zeroes on the board, he would not be changing the Brewers’ probabilistic outcome of a victory as much as if they saved him for a one-run game in the 8th inning the next day.

The Brewers’ usage of Hader is not “traditional”. It is not how the game is “supposed to be played”, at least according to several analysts (looking at you David Ortiz, John Smoltz, and Alex Rodriguez). However, there should be no arguing with its effectiveness, and all of Brewers’ Nation should applaud Craig Counsell’s willingness to adapt cutting edge, analytical strategies like this one that put the team in the best position to succeed.

Hey Brewer Fans, Settle Down with your Jeremy Jeffress Takes

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

Last Saturday night, the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the NLCS, 5-1. In the 6th inning Brewer reliever, Jeremy Jeffress, came into the game when the Brewers were down, 2-1. With 2 runner on, Jeffress delivered a pitch to Yasiel Puig that was hit over the fence in deep center field. This homer gave the Dodgers the 5-1 lead they used to close out the game. After this 6th inning and days after, many Brewer fans have been unfairly critical of Jeffress after he had a rough postseason. People have been saying he should have never been in Game 7, and are saying he should be released or traded. Seriously, I have seen these kind of takes all over social media.

Do these fans not realize how GREAT Jeffress was this year? Do these fans understand baseball at all?

Jeremy Jeffress was the Crew’s number one option out of the bullpen for the entire regular season. He was tied for 11th in the league in games appeared in for a relief pitcher (only 2 of the pitchers that appeared in more games, had more innings pitched than Jeffress). He was 8-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 76.2 innings. He only gave up 11 earned runs all year. I REPEAT, 11! The only reliever that played the whole season who had a better ERA than Jeffress was Oakland’s, Blake Treinen, who pitched 80.1 innings and had a 0.78 ERA. Jeremy Jeffress also added 89 strikeouts (10.4 strikeouts per 9) with only 27 walks throughout the entire season. These stats combined to give Jeffress an outstanding 3.4 WAR. He was always there for the Brew Crew to shut the door on opposing teams. He ended up with 24 games finished and 15 saves.

Jeremy Jeffress celebrating in his usual way. (Photo via Benny Sieu, USA Today)

Jeffress made the All-Star game this year along with teammates Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, and Josh Hader. Speaking of Hader, Jeffress had a better win percentage, more games pitched in, and a better ERA than him. However, it is usually Hader who Brewer fans think of instead of Jeffress when talking about the bullpen. After the All-Star game, when the division race was getting closer, Jeffress performed at his best. He had a 1.21 ERA in 29.2 innings and even converted 12/14 saves.

A reliever hasn’t had a better season for the Brewers since John Axford in 2011. Without Jeremy Jeffress the Brewers would not have been in a position to win the division and make a deep run in the playoffs. So calm down angry Brewer fans, the Crew will be back next year and fans should consider themselves lucky to watch a dominant player like Jeffress.

 

 

*All stats according to baseball-reference.com*

*Featured Image via Benny Sieu, USA Today*

The Two Greatest Words in Sports

After 172 games, it all comes down to one for the Milwaukee Brewers. Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. The game is at 7:09 (Central Time) tonight. You’re not going to want to miss what is sure to be an instant classic.

The Brewers offense exploded last night in game 6 and won, 7-2. The series is tied 3-3. Big market versus small market. This win forced a game 7, a game in which the Brewer players and fans can’t wait for.

Tonight’s starters are Jhoulys Chacin for the Brew Crew and Walker Buehler for the Dodgers. In 2 postseason starts for Chacin, he has pitched 10.1 innings, given up 0 runs, and struck out 9. Buehler has also pitched in 2 postseason games. He has pitched 12 innings, given up 9 runs, and struck out 15.

Tonight’s game will be Milwaukee’s first game 7 since 1958 when they were the Milwaukee Braves and they played at County Stadium. The 1958 team included all-time greats like Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews, and Hank Aaron. They lost this game 7 to the Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle lead Yankees.

Hank Aaron’s number, 44, is one of the few retired Milwaukee numbers. (Photo via baseballhall.org)

I have been waiting my whole life for a Brewers World Series, my parents have been waiting since 1982. The day where the World Series is just one win away, seemed out of reach. However, it is here. For a full preview of tonight’s game read, “The Brewers Lineup For Success in Game 7,” by Olivia Pelishek here on creamcitycentral.com.

Win or lose tonight, there is no denying the Brewers had a remarkable season. They were incredibly fun to watch and gave us a year to remember. Thank you Brewers. Now, in the words of Christian Yelich, “LET’S GOOOOOOOOOO!” Today is the day to beat the Dodgers and earn a trip to the World Series!

(Photo via Dylan Buell, Getty Images)

The Brewers Lineup for Success in Game 7

The Brewers have put themselves into a great position for game seven. With a fresh bullpen and an offense that has come alive, they couldn’t be in a better place. It seems to always be a mystery about who Counsell is going to play and in what situation. Based on what his past patterns, here is a good assumption on where the guys will be for game seven.

Lineup

Lorenzo Cain- CF

Christian Yelich- RF

Ryan Braun- LF

Jesus Aguilar- 1B

Travis Shaw- 2B

Mike Moustakas- 3B

Erik Kratz- C

Orlando Arcia- SS

Jhoulys Chacin- P

The opposing pitcher on the mound is right hander Walker Buehler. He pitched in game three when the Brewers shut out the Dodgers 4-0. Buehler gave up 4 runs on 6 hits. As for the Brewer lineup, it is one that is very familiar. All have shown fantastic offense and defense.

Out-getting

As we have all seen throughout the series, Counsell has been very creative with the pitching staff. Don’t expect tonight to be much different. Jhoulys Chacin will be the initial out-getter on the mound. Throughout the season he has been the most consistent pitcher on the staff. This is how the pitching would work out in a perfect game.

Chacin- 1st-5th inning

Knebel- 6th inning

Hader- 7th-9th inning

If the Brewers could get five strong innings out of Chacin, they can turn the ball over to a very strong bullpen. Knebel going into the game around the 6th or 7th inning is what Counsell has stuck with. With him pitching 1.2 strong innings yesterday, availability will not be an issue.  

Hader, with a couple days rest is very fresh.  In Counsell’s post game press conference last night, he joke that he would pitch Hader 12 innings. Obviously that’s not going to happen, but with Hader being as well rested as he is, expect to see a lot of him.

Having a strong lineup and great pitching, the Brewers look at a great chance of making a trip to the World Series. If they can get out to an early lead and allow the pitching to take action with a couple run lead, the Brewers will be looking at success and a party tonight.

NLCS Game 4 Recap

Final Score: MIL- 1 LAD- 2
WP: Julio Urias
LP: Junior Guerra

Top of the 1st:

Lorenzo Cain started game 4 out by striking out to Dodgers’ veteran starter, Rich Hill. MVP candidate, Christian Yelich, followed Cain’s at-bat by grounding out to first base. Ryan Braun made the 3rd out of the inning by flying out to center field. A quick 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom of the 1st:

Brewers’ starter, Gio Gonzalez, started his outing by walking Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, Chris Taylor. Everybody knows walking the leadoff man in any inning is never good. Justin Turner was next in the order and hit a dinky ground ball to Gonzalez where the only play was at 1st base. The next batter, David Freese, was hit by a pitch in the foot. Manny Machado batted in the cleanup spot and flew out to Jesus Aguilar in foul territory. With 2 outs, Brian Dozier roped a single to left field that scored Taylor. Kike Hernandez then flew out to right field leaving 2 runners on base.

Top of the 2nd:

Jesus Aguilar lead off the 2nd inning with a walk on 6 pitches. After the walk, Moustakas seemed impatient at the plate and flew out in foul territory. Jonathan Schoop, making his first NLCS start, was up to bat after “Moose.” He struck out on a nasty curveball thrown by Rich Hill. Manny Pina, who was 2-5 at the plate in the postseason prior to this at-bat, continued getting on base by generating a walk. The red-hot, Orlando Arcia, followed by flying out to Yasiel Puig in right field. Inning over.

Bottom of the 2nd:

Craig Counsell left Gonzalez in the game to pitch the 2nd even after a rocky 1st inning. Yasiel Puig was the first to bat and hit a “swinging bunt” that allowed him to reach first safely. Next, Austin Barnes was up to bat and Gio started him out with a ball. Gonzalez looked to be in pain, and in a shocking turn of events, exited the game with an ankle injury. Mid-season surprise, Freddy Peralta, came in to pitch. He inherited a 1-0 count on Austin Barnes, then proceeded to walk him. Two men on, nobody out. In an obvious sacrifice situation, pitcher, Rich Hill, bunted straight back to Peralta and he was able to get the lead out at 3rd. With one out, Chris Taylor came up to bat for the 2nd time, and Peralta struck him out. Following the strikeout, Dodgers’ game 2 hero, Justin Turner, walked to load the bases. Max Muncy, pinch-hitting for David Freese, came up to bat next and struck out looking on 4 pitches. Freddy Peralta and the Milwaukee Brewers were able to get out of the 2nd leaving three runners on base.

Top of the 3rd:

Freddy Peralta lead off the 3rd inning by grounding out to second base. After pitching good in the 2nd, Counsell wanted to send Peralta back on the mound. Leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, struck out a second time for another out. Up next, Christian Yelich, who seems to get on base every game, walked with 2 outs. The fourth batter of the inning, Ryan Braun, ended the inning by grounding out hard to Justin Turner, who made a great play on the ball.

Bottom of the 3rd:

All-Star, Manny Machado, grounded out to best friend, Jonathan Schoop, to start the Dodgers’ half of the 3rd. Batting second in this half inning, Brian Dozier, earned a walk off Freddy Peralta. Dozier then stole second base because of a bad throw by Manny Pina. With a runner in scoring position and 1 out, Kike Hernandez struck out looking on a curveball. Yasiel Puig, up to bat with 2 outs, fouled off a lot of pitches and then struck out on a perfectly located fastball on the outside corner.

Top of the 4th:

Jesus Aguilar batted first for the Brewers in the top of the 4th. He got Milwaukee’s first hit of the night by lining a single into right field. Mike Moustakas followed up Aguilar’s single by striking out. Schoop was up to bat next and grounded out into a double play. Through 4 innings, Rich Hill looked great as the Brewers could not generate enough baserunners to put any pressure on him.

Bottom of the 4th:

Craig Counsell stayed with Freddy Peralta and he struck out Austin Barnes on three pitches to start the inning. The second batter, Rich Hill, tried to throw everybody off guard by bunting but he was thrown out by Peralta who made the easy play. Chris Taylor, who so far scored the only run of the game, ended the inning when he struck out looking. This was the first inning Milwaukee had where nobody reached base safely.

Top of the 5th:

Rich Hill started the 5th by striking out Manny Pina on a questionable called third strike. After the strikeout, Arcia continued his hot streak by hitting a single up the middle. Hitting in the 9 spot, Domingo Santana entered the game to pinch hit for Freddy Peralta and hit a double into right center field that scored Arcia. Cain quickly made the second out of the inning when he went first pitch swinging and grounded out to shortstop. Christian Yelich stepped up to the plate with 2 outs and a runner on second but he struck out swinging to end the inning.

Bottom of the 5th:

Corbin Burnes entered the game for the Brewers after Santana pinch-hit for pitcher, Freddy Peralta. Burnes started his outing by striking out Justin Turner on a 97 MPH fastball. Max Muncy walked up to the plate after the strikeout and grounded out into the Milwaukee shift. Corbin Burnes did not shy away from the third batter of the inning, Manny Machado, he went right after him. He struck out Machado looking to end the 5th. Machado did not like the call and argued with the home plate umpire until manager, Dave Roberts, had to intervene.

Top of the 6th:

Pedro Baez relieved Rich Hill in the 6th and his first batter was Ryan Braun. Braun was first pitch swinging and singled in between short and third. The next batter, Jesus Aguilar, struck out on a 3-2 split fingered fastball. “Moose” was the next batter and flew out to first baseman, Max Muncy. Schoop, who struck out and grounded into a double play earlier this game, made the final out of the inning by striking out for a second time.

Bottom of the 6th:

Corbin Burnes stayed in for a second inning and hit Brian Dozier to allow the leadoff man on. Cody Bellinger came in to pinch hit and immediately flew out to Ryan Braun in left field. Puig was the next batter up and struck out after falling down in the count, 0-2. To end the inning, Dozier tried to steal on the first pitch to Austin Barnes but Pina threw him out by a mile.

Top of the 7th:

Manny Pina lead off the 7th inning by hitting a double to the right center gap off Dodgers’ relief pitcher, Kenta Maeda. Arcia followed and was robbed of a hit by a sliding catch from Chris Taylor. Curtis Granderson pinch hit for Corbin Burnes and hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field that allowed Pina to advance to third base. With the lead runner on third base Lorenzo Cain faced new pitcher, Ryan Madson, and grounded out to second base to end the inning.

Bottom of the 7th:

Joakim Soria came into relief and quickly gave up a leadoff single to Austin Barnes. Soria got the next two batters out and had to face Justin Turner with a runner on first. Turner hit a liner to right field and Yelich made a spectacular catch falling over the barricade in foul territory to end the inning.

Top of the 8th:

Yelich lead off the 8th inning with an infield single off Ryan Madson. Braun struck out on three pitches in the next at-bat and failed to get the runner over. Next, Aguilar popped out to first base when he swung at the first pitch. A leadoff single proved to be nothing when Moustakas lined out to right field to end this Brew Crew half of the inning.

Bottom of the 8th:

Josh Hader pitched the 8th inning and gave up a leadoff single. He effortlessly got the next two guys out but gave up a hit to Cody Bellinger that put runners on the corners with 2 outs. Former MVP finalist, Matt Kemp, faced Hader but it isn’t 2011 and the lefty proved to be too much for the former All-Star and struck him out. Milwaukee escaped a minor scare and kept the game tied going into the 9th.

Top of the 9th:

Kenley Jansen started the 9th inning and instantly made his presence known by making a great play off the mound to get the leadoff man, Jonathan Schoop, out. Manny Pina got on base for the third time when he drew a walk in the next at-bat. Once Pina got on base, Counsell used Hernan Perez as a pinch runner. On a 0-2 pitch, Arcia was able to put the ball in play and move Perez to second base. Travis Shaw came up to the plate as a pinch hitter with 2 outs and a runner on second but struck out.

Bottom of the 9th:

Corey Knebel fell down in the count 3-1 to his first batter, Austin Barnes, but was able to get him to ground out to Arcia for the first out of the inning. Then, Knebel got Joc Pederson to strike out swinging but walked Chris Taylor on 8 pitches. 2 outs, runner on first, Justin Turner up to bat. Knebel threw one pitch to him and was able to get Turner to line out to center field.

Top of the 10th:

Around midnight (central time) Lorenzo Cain lead off with an out to right field against Kenley Jansen. The ball was hit shallow and Cody Bellinger made a ridiculous diving catch to take away a hit. Momentum stayed with the Dodgers because on the very next pitch, Yelich broke his bat and popped out to third base. A 2 out single by Ryan Braun kept the inning alive. He stole second base with Aguilar up to bat and got into scoring position. However, it did not matter because Jansen made quick work of the big first baseman and struck him out.

Bottom of the 10th:

The bottom of the 10th started with Junior Guerra striking out Max Muncy on 5 pitches. This is where things get controversial. Guerra got Machado to ground out to short and when he was running through the base, it looked like Machado purposely kicked through Aguilar’s leg/ankle. This caused Aguilar to get heated and benches to clear. Nothing more happened except I am now convinced Manny Machado is the dirtiest player in the MLB. After that, Brian Dozier struck out. Inning over.

Top of the 11th:

Moustakas started the 11th by grounding out against Alex Wood. Jonathan Schoop followed suit and grounded out as well. Erik Kratz did not put up a fight either as he struck out on a curveball in the dirt. Not much happening this inning for the Crew.

Bottom of the 11th:

Guerra came out in the bottom of the 11th and was able to get leadoff man, Cody Bellinger, to strike out. Yasmani Grandal was the second batter in the inning and Junior was able to strike him out too. Austin Barnes, flew out to Aguilar in foul territory to end the 11th.

Top of the 12th:

Dylan Floro came in to pitch the 12th inning for the Dodgers. The first batter he faced was Orlando Arcia and he grounded out to third on 1 pitch. Junior Guerra, the second batter of the inning, worked the count but ultimately struck out. Lorenzo Cain made the final out of the inning by striking out as well.

Bottom of the 12th:

After a dominant 11th inning, Guerra came out to pitch the bottom of the 12th. The first batter, Joc Pederson, grounded out to Arcia who made a nice play ranging towards the middle to make the out. Next, Chris Taylor hit a weak pop-up to Jesus Aguilar. Justin Turner made the final out of the inning by grounding out to Jonathan Schoop.

Top of the 13th:

Around 1:00 AM (central time), Christian Yelich lead off the 13th inning with a ground out to second against Julio Urias. Former MVP, Ryan Braun, was the next batter and hit a rocket of a single into left field. This was the first hard hit ball Milwaukee had in multiple innings. Jesus Aguilar followed Braun in the order and hit a deep fly ball to center but it was caught for an out. Moustakas made the final out in the top of the 13th inning when he struck out looking.

Bottom of the 13th:

Craig Counsell had full confidence sending Guerra out in the 13th inning considering nobody was warming up in the bullpen. Max Muncy made a loud out number one by lining out to Braun in left field. Manny Machado was swinging for the fences. He did not hit a homerun but he settled for a line drive single to left. The second out came when Dozier hit a foul ball that “Moose” caught close to the dodgers’ dugout. Bellinger was the next man up to bat and Guerra’s first pitch to him was a wild pitch that allowed Machado to advance to second base. The long night did not end in Milwaukee’s favor because on a 3-2 count, Bellinger hit a ball into right field that dropped in front of Yelich. Christian made a good play on the ball and made an even better throw but it wasn’t enough to get Machado out at the plate.

NLCS Game 3 Recap

After the Brewers lost a heartbreaker in Milwaukee on Saturday, the series shifted to Los Angeles for Games 3, 4 and 5. To secure a chance for a Game 6 at Miller Park, the Brewers needed to win at least one game in Los Angeles. After a stressful game that went down to the wire, Milwaukee pulled out another win. Here’s how it all went down.

Top 1

After leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, struck out to the 98 mph heat throwing starter of Walker Buehler, it looked to be a tough day for the crew. NL MVP favorite, Christian Yelich, started his at-bat down 1-2. Yelich’s first plate appearance looked grim, as the Milwaukee slugger has been struggling with a .180 post season average. However, like most of the regular season, Yelich worked the Pitcher and took three straight balls to walk. Next batter up, Ryan Braun, smashed a double down the left field line on a 1-1 count, reaching second base and scoring Yelich, giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Travis Shaw would strikeout looking and Jesus Aguilar would strikeout swinging to end the inning.

 

Bot 1

Jhoulys Chacin looked for redemption in Dodger Stadium as his last start against Los Angeles resulted in an early 5th inning exit. In the 21-5 loss in July, Chacin gave up five hits, eight earned runs, three home runs, and three walks. Unfortunately for Chacin, he would face three of the most fearsome hitters to start off a game. However, as the Brewers ace, Chacin was dialed in from the get go. In 15 first inning pitches, Jhoulys struck out Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, while finishing Justin Turner with a groundout to shortstop.

 

Top 2

Buehler really started to groove in his pitching after giving up one run in the first inning. He would strikeout Mike Moustakas and Erik Kratz in back to back plate appearances. After Orlando Arcia reached on an error by shortstop Manny Machado (It should’ve been a hit), Buehler would finish off Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin with a flyout to the second baseman, Kike Hernandez.

 

Bot 2

Jhoulys’ night wouldn’t get any easier as he would have to face the red hot Manny Machado. In a 2-1 hitters count, Machado ripped a lead off single to left field. Struggling Center Fielder, Cody Bellinger would ground out into a fielder’s choice to the shortstop in which Machado looked to interfere. Brewers Manager, Craig Counsell, argued with the umpires, but after discussion there was no review. In the next at-bat, Yasiel Puig doubled to left sending Machado to third base. With two runners in scoring position (RISP), Catcher Yasmani Grandal would strikeout looking. Manager Craig Counsell would then intentionally walk the eight hole hitter, Kike Hernandez, in effort to face the Pitcher, Walker Buehler. After working a 2-2 count, Buehler would strikeout looking, leaving two RISP.

 

Top 3

Even though the Brewers started the third inning with the top of their order, Walker Buehler would go three up, three down. Lorenzo Cain would line out to centerfield and Christian Yelich would groundout to the shortstop. Buehler then struckout Ryan Braun finishing the inning with only 13 pitches.

 

Bot 3

Just like Buehler, Chacin would start to groove in the crucial Game 3. Jhoulys faced the top of the Dodgers order making Pederson groundout to shortstop, Muncy fly out to left field and Turner ground out to third base.

 

Top 4

Buehler would surrender one base runner and 17 pitches in the fourth inning, but remained strong. Travis Shaw would groundout to first and Jesus Aguilar would groundout to second. After giving up a single to Mike Moustakas, Buehler would get Erik Kratz to fly out to second base.

 

Bot 4

Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado would walk on five pitches, leaving Cody Bellinger a chance to yet again tie the game. After what seemed to be a fielder’s choice from first to second base, Counsell wanted to review Machado’s slide into shortstop Orlando Arcia. After review, it was found that Machado intentionally slid out of the base path and grabbed Arcia, to prevent the double play. Head umpire, Gerry Davis, would rule both Machado and Bellinger out, resulting in a 3-6-1 double play. Killing all momentum the Dodgers had, Yasiel Puig would groundout to Mike Moustakas to end the inning.

 

Top 5

Buehler really started to stroll along getting nine of his last ten batters out. Orlando Arcia and Jhoulys Chacin would both strikeout, as leadoff hitter, Lorenzo Cain, would groundout to second base.

 

Bot 5

Chacin would start off shaky in the fifth inning giving up a double to the Brewers NLCS MVP, Yasmani Grandal. However, in the next at-bat Jhoulys would get a key flyout to left from Kike Hernandez. Dodgers Manager, Dave Roberts, would now have to face the decision of keeping in his best Pitcher, or pinch-hitting him to tie the game with a RISP. Roberts would stick with Buehler who eventually struck out looking. With two outs, Joc Pederson would fly out to centerfield leaving yet another RISP.

 

Top 6

Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun would both groundout to Manny Machado to start the beginning of the sixth inning. However, Travis Shaw would finally catch a piece of Buehler, tripling to deep right center field. After a wild pitch got passed the Brewers MVP, Yasmani Grandal, Travis Shaw scored. Jesus Aguilar would groundout to third base to end the inning with a two run Milwaukee lead.

 

Bot 6

After Starting Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin got Max Muncy to strikeout swinging, he would run into trouble against Justin Turner. A hard hit ball to Mike Moustakas lead to a throwing error giving Turner second base. With only a two run lead, Counsell went to his trusted relief pitcher, Corey Knebel. On the first pitch, Knebel would get Manny Machado to ground out to third base, Turner at second. With two outs in a close game, Knebel would get Cody Bellinger to strike out with a RISP.

 

Top 7

After Mike Moustakas grounded out to second base to lead off the seventh inning, Buehler was in for a rude awakening. Veteran Catcher, Erik Kratz, unleashed a double to left field on the first pitch. With Kratz in scoring position, Mr. October took over. Arcia, who is now on a 12 game hitting streak, took advantage of the tired pitcher. Arcia launched a two run home run to opposite field, giving the Brewers a four run advantage. After a double switch by Craig Counsell to strengthen defense, Hernan Perez was due to hit. Perez would fly out to right field and Cain would fly out to center field to end the inning. After giving up four runs, and his spot coming up in the order, Buehler would exit the game.

 

Bot 7

Yet again, Knebel would finish his night strong. Knebel would Strike out the side of hitters Puig, Grandal and Hernandez on 13 pitches. Corey would finish with 19 pitches on the night, leaving him a chance to be available for Game 4 if needed.

 

Top 8

The Brewers would threaten to score in the eighth inning but wouldn’t score. Yelich would lead off with a bunt single down the third baseline. After Ryan Braun hit a “Texas-leaguer” in front of Right Fielder Yasiel Puig, Yelich was thrown out at second base. Though Ryan Braun seemed mad at the moment, Yelich thought there was a chance of getting doubled up at first. (Rather be safe than sorry on the base paths.) After tripling in the sixth inning, Travis Shaw would strikeout, leaving two outs for pinch-hitter Domingo Santana. In the regular season as a pinch-hitter, Santana hit a cool 12-for-29 (.413). Keeping this in mind with a RISP, Dave Roberts intentionally walked Santana. Roberts move would prove to work as Moustakas would fly out to right field, ending the eighth inning.

 

Bot 8

Trying not to use Josh Hader right away, Counsell called Joakim Soria to pitch. After throwing just four pitches, Chris Taylor would fly out to the first basemen to secure one out in the eighth. With the top of the order coming up, Counsell again called the bullpen to get LHP Josh Hader to finish the job. Even though Roberts would switch out Pederson and Muncy for Freese and Kemp, the Dodgers would be no match for Haderade. Only throwing eight pitches total, Josh Hader struck out both hitters leading the Brewers to the ninth inning.

 

Top 9

Heading into the ninth inning, Counsell hoped to get some insurance runs for his Closer. Erik Kratz would lead off the inning with a walk but a fielder’s choice by Arcia would lead to an out. Perez would rip a single to left field advancing Arcia to second base. While Cain attempted to score both Arcia and Perez on a 2-2 hit and run, the center fielder struck out. Without making contact, Cain left Perez caught stealing, and ending the hopeful ninth inning.

 

Bot 9

Feeling confident in the four run lead and wanting to save Hader for possible use in Game 5, Counsell left the LHP on the bench. Enter Jeremy Jeffress. While being absolutely dominant in the regular season with an 8-1 record, 15 saves and a 1.29 ERA, Jeffress has been anything but that in the playoffs. After blowing two saves (Game 1 NLDS/Game 2 NLCS), Counsell went to Jeffress out of the pen to boost his confidence. While being rattled right away from a single by Justin Turner up the middle, it got worse. Manny Machado would smash a double down the right field line, putting two RISP. Luckily, Jeffress would settle down and get an out from Cody Bellinger. Bellinger would pop up to the shortstop giving the Brewers one out. Jeffress would then walk Puig on four straight pitches leaving Counsell to call to the bullpen to start warming up Junior Guerra. However, Jeffress would get three straight strikes against guess who? Brewers NLCS MVP, Yasmani Grandal. (Love that guy). With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, all pressure was on JJ to perform. On a 1-2 count, Jeffress blew a 96 mph fastball passed Brian Dozier to lead the Brewers to a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers.

 

After Monday’s win, the Brewers take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS. This win secures the chance for the Brewers to come back to Milwaukee for Game 6, if needed. Game 4 will be held in Los Angeles at 8:09 CST. Gio Gonzalez will lead the Brewers into what seems to be another bullpen game.