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Monday, May 20th 2019
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Making the Postseason: Part III

There’s been plenty of legitimate questions that have hung over the powers-that-be for Wisconsin’s pro sports teams. The Packers and Bucks have each made significant changes at top-level positions in the front office. And the Bucks ownership has been, well … Bucks ownership. The Brewers, however, have proven to be competent to the highest degree.

David Stearns has rightly received praise since assuming GM duties in place of Doug Melvin. Combined with Mark Attanasio, the Brewers principal owner, the Milwaukee Brewers boast one of the best front offices not just in baseball, but in all of American professional sports. At various times, the Brewers have made aggressive, forward-thinking moves while showing virtuous patience in other situations.

The Right Leader at the Right Time

As an owner, what more could a fan ask for with Mark Attanasio? For the most part, he stays out of the picture – compared to some of the more meddlesome owners around sports – but when he makes an appearance on a Brewers broadcast or interview, he’s super knowledgeable about all levels of the organization’s system. He puts people in a position to succeed and that manifests itself from the very top to the very bottom of the franchise.

(Not that it matters much in this discussion, but the Brewers have proved to be quite the business deal for Attanasio. The investment group headed by Attanasio bought the team in 2004 for $223 million. Compare that to the Miami Marlins, who have had fewer people attend some of their games this season than their minor league affiliates, a franchise notorious for leaving its fans with the short end of the stick that sold for $1.2 billion not quite a year ago.)

The Essence of Forward-Thinking Management

The rebuild came at exactly the right time, too. Much like basketball, although maybe not the quite the same extent, it feels like baseball has undergone a reevaluation of the way its played over the last five to seven years. Position players pretty much all play multiple positions, starters aren’t generally asked to go as deep into games, and the bullpen is used almost completely different. Tearing down the Brewers when they did put them in a position to be ready to build a roster ready to compete in the ultra-modern style. Plus, for the most part, manager Craig Counsell has been eagerly on board with every move and pushed all the right buttons.

Milwaukee’s front office has also shown capable of effectively playing the waiting game. Of course, injuries aren’t necessarily predictable, sitting out high-profile pitching acquisitions proved the right move. Sure, the Brewers could use a dominant pitcher (can’t every team?), but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s not like throwing tens of millions of dollars at the likes of Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn would’ve solved much. Or trading away prospects for Jose Quintana or Sonny Gray. (Quintana has not-so-arguably had the best season of that group, and he currently has respectable-but-not-dominant-by-any-means 3.96 ERA this season.)

In Stearns We Trust

Instead, Stearns & Co. risked popular opinion with some fans and went bargain bin shopping by bringing on Jhoulys Chacin, who’s provided everything anybody could’ve asked for when he signed a relatively modest two-year, $15 million deal. Chacin currently boasts a record of 8-3 with a 3.68 ERA.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.

It remains to be seen how the trade market will play out over the next couple weeks. But the Brewers justifiably were in on Manny Machado but unwilling to let the Baltimore Orioles dictate the terms of the trade and grab more or higher-value prospects. Stearns was only interested to the extent that the trade was done on his terms.

Let’s go back to the aforementioned juxtaposition between Milwaukee and Miami’s baseball teams. The Brewers recognized the fire-sale going on with the Marlins and picked up Christian Yelich for peanuts. Even though at the time, outfield was already Milwaukee’s most obvious position of best organizational depth. But Yelich was too good to pass up. He has MVP-candidate upside and is on perhaps baseball’s most team-friendly long-term contract. In the only sport that doesn’t have a salary cap and has recently seen players openly pine for $400 million deals, Yelich is in the fourth year of a seven-year, $49,570,000 pact. The last year of the deal, 2022 (an option year), tops out with Yelich seeing a salary of $15 million. There’s an argument to be made he’s comfortably worth double that amount now, but is on the books for $7 million this season.

Then came the signing of Lorenzo Cain. Fans realized the talent that moves brought. But again, many questioned why Stearns was throwing millions of dollars worth of contracts and spending so many resources at the position of most depth. Cain’s consistency has brought a stabilizing force to the top of the lineup that might not otherwise be there. And with all the Brewers injury woes and prolonged slumps in the case of Domingo Santana, Milwaukee has needed every bit of that outfield depth.

Hiring David Stearns was a bit of a high-risk move when it happened. But it’s proven to have come with a high reward. And Mark Attanasio’s combination of laid-back California demeanor with New York business savvy has been an oddly impeccable fit in Milwaukee. Together, the Brewers have an owner/general manager tandem that can truly be put up against any of MLB’s best. Check your critiques at the door, Brewers fans, the team is in good hands.

Wade Miley: The Improbable Hero

The Milwaukee Brewers lost in heartbreaking fashion Saturday night, 4-3. A 2-run homerun in the 8th by Justin Turner off Jeremy Jeffress gave the Dodgers a lead that the Brew Crew couldn’t get back. I still don’t know why Counsell kept Jeffress in the game even after a shaky 7th inning, but I didn’t lead this Brewers team to 96 wins and the NLCS, so I’m not going to criticize one questionable move.

Milwaukee lost but you would not think so by the way starter, Wade Miley, pitched. He did everything he could to give the Brewers the win. Miley went 5.2 innings, gave up 2 hits, 0 runs, had 3 strikeouts, and 0 walks. He also helped himself out at the plate by getting 2 hits and scoring a run. After the game, manager Craig Counsell said, “Miley did great, he did his job. He did more than we expected.” Nobody on the Dodgers had solid contact against him except David Freese, a known Brewer killer, who had a homer taken away from him by Gold Glove candidate, Lorenzo Cain. A walk in the 6th inning with 2 outs is what forced Counsell to play his hand. You can bet if it was the regular season, Miley would’ve at least pitched through the 6th and maybe even the 7th. While he was walking off the field, Brewer fans gave him a standing ovation that Jesus Aguilar hilariously tipped his cap too. In 2 post season games, Miley has proved he can be depended on. He has pitched 10.1 innings, faced 37 batters, given up only 5 hits, struck out 5, only walked 1, and has given up 0 runs. This year is the only time Miley has ever pitched in the postseason.

Wade Miley after getting a hit in the NLCS. (Photo via Stacy Revere, Getty Images)

A former All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2012, Wade Miley has fallen a long way in 6 years. He started this current season in Double-A because no team wanted to take a chance on him. This is because last year he was one of the worst qualified starting pitchers in all of baseball. He went 8-15 and had a horrendous 5.61 ERA. Yes, you read that right, over 5 RUNS A GAME. The Milwaukee Brewers picked him up mid-season for help at starting pitcher. For the Brewers this regular season he started 16 games, went 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA. Before this season, the best ERA he had ever posted was a 3.33 which was 6 years and 4 teams ago. Miley has come back time and time again after tough injuries like his right oblique strain in May. He has been incredible all season, surpassing any expectations fans had of him when he was first signed. Miley has become a fan-favorite thanks to his gritty play, high energy, and greasy look. Honestly, I don’t think I could identify Miley if I passed him on a busy street. We can all see ourselves in Wade Miley, a regular looking guy, living out his dream pitching for one of the best teams in the MLB.

Wade Miley’s career has been revived thanks to the Milwaukee Brewers and one particular pitch. Miley started throwing the cut fastball more and more this season, something he had not done previously in his career, and has become a very tough pitcher to time up. When thrown correctly, the cut fastball is one of the most effective pitches in all of baseball. I mean, just look at what Mariano Rivera did with the pitch. The Brewers are on an absolute tear right now so get excited to see more of Wade Miley and his cut fastball.

Wade Miley has been outstanding for the Brewers all season. (Photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea, Getty Images)

Every Milwaukee playoff run I have witnessed in my lifetime, has always had an improbably hero. Whether it was Nyjer “T-Plush” Morgan, John Axford, CC Sabathia, or Corey Hart, Wade Miley will be a name Brewer fans associate with this playoff run for years to come.

 

*All stats according to baseball-reference.com”

Week One of Brewers Baseball Recapped

3/28- 3/31 vs STL

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

4/1-4/3 @ CIN

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Brewers add to bullpen, sign closer Feliz to 1-year deal

Early Thursday afternoon, the Brewers made a move that had been rumored for around a week by signing closer Neftali Feliz to a one-year, 5.35 million dollar contract. Along with the base salary, the deal could max out at 6.85 million with incentives. Milwaukee will be Feliz’s 3rd team in as many seasons and his 4th overall, having previously played for the Rangers, Tigers and Pirates.

Wisconsin Sitdowns: Caden Lemons

Caden Lemon’s was the Brewers 3rd draft pick in the MLB draft which started this Monday. He is an 18 year old 6’6″ Right Hander from Alabama. 

Q: Has baseball always been your main sport?

A: Yeah for sure ever since I was a kid.

Q: Were you always a pitcher?

A: Yeah always since we were allowed to pitch.

Q: When did it start to become reality that you would not only get drafted but go on the first day?

A: It has always been a goal since my junior year, as a family we weren’t sure it would be the first day, but we were happy about it and it’s a huge honor.

Q: What do you feel your strengths are as a pitcher?

Lemons has hit 97 on a radar gun and could be a future stud for Milwaukee.

A: My competitiveness, how much I want to play, my will to win and the fact that I always want to be out on the mound.

Q: Have you ever been to Wisconsin?

A: I have not, the furthest north I have ever been is Chicago.

Q: Did you have a feeling the Brewers would be the team to pick you?

A: I had a meeting in Biloxi, but was trying keep an open mind.

Q: What do you feel you need to improve on to be successful?

A: You can always improve on anything in my mind. I want to work with the coaches in the minor leagues and eventually pitch for Milwaukee.

Q: What kind of player do you seek to emulate?

A: No not exactly, I believe everyone is different and why model your game after someone that is not you. If you make yourself the best you can be that is your best route to success.

Q: Do you have a pitcher you think is most similar to you?

A: Not really, people have told me Noah Syndergaard, but I think that is more because of the hair and being tall.

Q: Do you ever plan on cutting your hair?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: What is it like to be graduating high school one week and on the brink of being a professional athlete the next?

Lemons spoke at length about how his work ethic was a key piece of his success.

A: It is kind of what you plan your life for and what I worked for throughout senior season. It was a huge honor, but in the back of my head this is what I worked for and put in the time for. It is amazing to reach your goals.

Q: Do you have a favorite game you have played in?

A: The game at Thompson High School this year. It was to make it into the playoffs, we were down 1-0, I pitched game 2 and we won that to force a game 3.

 Q: If you debuted tomorrow what would your walkout song be?

A: Ooh that’s hard probably Gyalchester by Drake.

King of the Diamond- Week of 8/7-8/13

If this is your first time checking out King of the Diamond pieces, here’s what you can look forward to seeing:

Every week we will look at which Milwaukee Brewer stood out from a game changing performance, or provided consistent production over the previous week. We will do the same for one other player within the NL Central (Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates).

The Crew squandered their division lead this week, losing as many as six in a row dating back to August 6th. They finally snapped that streak with back-to-back wins against the Reds, but still sit behind the Cubs and the Cardinals in the division with the Pirates close behind. The Brewers have a huge pair of games coming up against the Pirates that are arguably must win games before heading West to take on the Rockies, Giants, and Dodgers in a 10-day road trip.

King of the Diamond- Ryan Braun

Image result for ryan braun

Braun has really found his stroke as of late, currently sporting an eight-game hitting streak, in which all but one have been multi-hit games. His batting average saw a huge spike over the past week, jumping from .264 to .295 on the season. This is a good sign for the Brewers who have been struggling offensively. Braun’s bat is a necessity for the Brewers offensive success going forward, and they need him to stay healthy at all costs.

King of the Diamond- Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals

Image result for paul dejong

Paul DeJong has been destroying opposing pitchers in the Cardinals resurgence into the NL Central race. DeJong has been a huge part in the eight-game win streak that came to an end this past Sunday. Similar to Braun, his average saw a nice jump from .283 to .297 and he drove in eight runs this past week on a Cardinal team that plated 67 runs since last Sunday. The Cardinals have made the case to be one of Major League Baseball’s hottest teams, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Saint Louis opens up a difficult road trip this week, making stops in Boston and Pittsburgh.

 

A look back at the off-season Pitching Frenzy

Jhoulys Chacin is a 30 year-old starting pitcher from Venezuela. This is his 10th season in the big leagues. He’s pitched primarily in the NL west in his career, but also spent a season between Atlanta and Los Angeles of the Angel variety. He’s had a very interesting career up until this point. At times he looks like a top of the rotation starter and at times he looks like a swing guy in the bullpen. Jhoulys can boast a strong 4.21 ERA at Coors field in his career, you also must look at his stellar 1.79 ERA and 0.977 WHIP at Petco Park last year. That’s the good, but the bad can’t be ignored. Outside of Petco Park he was atrocious last year claiming an ERA of 6.53 and a nauseating 1.638 WHIP.

 Whatever those numbers tell you or me, David Stearns liked enough of what he saw to bring him in to help this rotation giving him a 2-year 15.5-million-dollar contract. To the surprise of others this was the only “major” starting pitcher move the Brewers made this off-season, even though this was seen as the weakest spot on the roster. There was a “Big 4” to most in the starting pitching market. That “Big 4” consisted of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn. Not signing one of these guys was frowned upon by the baseball pundits, but that doesn’t matter to David Stearns he was comfortable with what he had. However, the season started off rocky for the veteran right-hander. In his old stomping grounds of Petco Park Jhoulys couldn’t even make it out of the 4th. He gave up 4ER 7 hits and walked 2 in only 3 1/3. Next up was divisional foe St. Louis… this start was just as rough, this time he made it into the 6th, however 6 runs came across and 3 were earned. The next start after that happened to be against St. Louis, but this time it was in St. Louis. He only gave up 3 runs, all of which were earned. The main problem with his first few starts were how horrifically inefficient they were. In all 3 starts he couldn’t make it out of the 6th. His inefficiency hit a peak in a game in New York against the Mets when it took him 85 pitches to get through 4 innings. The Mets only managed 1 run against him, but this game really hurt the bullpen. Now you can’t judge a season based on 4 games, but this looked to be all of Brewers fans worst nightmares coming true and this being a flop signing.

               Thankfully for Jhoulys the season is longer than 4 games. After the game against the Mets he really turned a corner. Back at Miller Park against the floundering Marlins Jhoulys made it through 6 innings allowing 4 hits and no runs. And he keeps going strong after that with very solid starts in 5 of his last 6. The crown jewel being against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona where he went 7 strong innings only giving up 2 hits and 1 run. This game was not only the game he went the deepest in, but also the game he looked the best. His slider looked nasty, he had good control, and he worked very efficiently throwing only 96 pitches to get through the 7 innings. That’s just under 14 pitches per inning. He’s had an eye-popping ERA of 2.29 in his last 8 starts. And his season totals at an ERA of 3.32 and a WHIP of 1.3.16.  This was undoubtably what Stearns had in mind when he brought Jhoulys and only Jhoulys in.

               Let’s look at how the “Big 4” has fared to this point in the season. Starting with Yu Darvish who received the largest contract of the 4. He received a 6-year 126-million-dollar contract from the Chicago Cubs. Up to now this looks like a colossal overpay and a bullet dodged by the Brewers. Now there have been times where we’ve seen the filthy Yu Darvish, but he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who’s AAV will be 21 million per year until he’s 37. Yu has accumulated a WAR of -0.4, an ERA of 4.95, and a WHIP of 1.425. This contract was too much for the Brewers to swallow and at the moment looks like a potential blessing.

               We next step to see Jake Arrieta who had the largest AAV at 25 million a year for 3 years. Jake was the guy most feared signing the most, as it was known he wanted the most and had a declining fastball at age 32. However, he’s been by far the best of these 4 guys. He’s been a steadying force in a young Phillies rotation, and has helped the surge to the top of the NL East. He’s posted a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 1.149, with a healthy WAR of 1.4. Most were to scared to sign him and now the only thing they’re scared of is having to face this ace who looks to be holding strong at 32.

               Next, we’ll look at the smallest contract of the 4. Lance Lynn was given a 1-year 12 million-dollar contract from the Minnesota Twins. At first glance most saw this as a steal for Minnesota, but it hasn’t panned out that way yet. He has a gigantic ERA of 6.34 and a WHIP of 1.864 to match. The worst part of this for Minnesota is he hasn’t lived up to the billing as an innings eater. In 9 starts he’s only managed to get through 44 innings. This isn’t what Minnesota had in mind, but like I said you can’t judge a season this early.

               Finally, the last guy to sign Alex Cobb. Cobb was given a 3-year 45 million-dollar contract by the Baltimore Orioles. Alex Cobb has been scary, but not the good kind. He’s posted an ERA of 7.32 and a WHIP of 1.932. He’s gotten rocked just about every time out and at this point I think it’s safe to stop blaming it on rust. He’s only managed to strike out 22 in 39 1/3 innings. There’s no doubt he can turn things around over the life of the contract, but things don’t look good at the moment.

               The Brewers needed to address their starting rotation in the off-season and they did, just not in a sexy way that most around baseball thought they would. They handled it like they’ve handled most things in the Stearns era… frugally. This has been one of those under the radar signings that’s really helped the team on the field and the team’s wallet. Bringing in a big named starter would have been fun, but they all have either drastically underperformed, or wanted too much for such a small-market team. So looking back on it not only did we get an effective starting pitcher, but we got him for pennies on the dollar compared to the big named guys, who by the way he’s outperforming most of.

Playing Baseball or Chess

The Brewers have a surplus amount of infielders, but it may be exactly what they need. They have seven guys who get regular time in the infield, plus Ryan Braun who adds an an additional glove at first base. With having that amount, the Brewers are able to create a lineup everyday that has the best potential to win. They are able to create matchups based on who is pitching against them as well as who is pitching for them.

Basic Righty/Lefty Matchup

The Brewers are lucky to have a good spread of lefties and righties in the infield. With having three lefties and four righties the Brewers are allowed to play with this matchup daily.

Batters vs LHP

Position(s) Player L or R OBP BA HR
3B,2B,1B Travis Shaw L .292 .221 1
3B Mike Moustakas L .293 .259 5
2B,SS Jonathan Schoop R .304 .252 4
1B,OF Eric Thames L .259 .200 1
1B,3B Jesus Aguilar R .381 .264 7
SS Orlando Arcia R .218 .157 0
1B,2B,SS,3B,OF Hernan Perez R .301 .281 6

 

Defense

1B- Jesus Aguilar, 2B- Jonathan Schoop, SS- Hernan Perez, 3B- Mike Moustakas

It is known that usually left handed hitters have more of a disadvantage against left handed pitchers. Therefore, to start at first base it only makes sense to have Aguilar over Thames. As much as there are lefties out there who are very good against lefty pitchers,  Aguilar’s numbers are a lot better. As for 2B, Jonathan Schoop makes sense with being a right handed batter and have decent success against lefties. The SS position will get a little more difficult, but for now Hernan Perez has put up the best numbers. Lastly there is 3B, it really can be a toss up between Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas. I like Moustakas a little better from the power aspect.

Batters vs RHP

 

Position(s) Player L or R OBP BA HR
3B,2B,1B Travis Shaw L .358 .258 22
3B Mike Moustakas L .320 .250 17
2B,SS Jonathan Schoop R .246 .227 13
1B,OF Eric Thames L .314 .232 15
1B,3B Jesus Aguilar R .355 .282 22
SS Orlando Arcia R .254 .223 3
1B,2B,SS,3B,OF Hernan Perez R .302 .258 3

 

Defense

1B- Jesus Aguilar, 2B- Travis Shaw, SS- Jonathan Schoop, 3B- Mike Moustakas

Building matchups while facing a RHP for the most part is a little easier. You can build it around who is hitting best at the time. Right now, 1B Jesus Aguilar has been a huge weapon for the Brewers and is going to stay in the lineup as much as possible. Travis Shaw at 2B is still quite new to him, but allows the Brewers to do so much more. That allows you to put Hernan Perez at SS and Mike Moustakas at 3B. This infield is one that no one expected to be seeing in the beginning of the year, but it’s an infield that should produce runs.

When Wade Miley or Jhoulys Chacin are on the mound

It may seem a little bizarre that the guys who get put out on the field are dependent on the pitcher on the mound for them. This factor for the Brewers can make a huge difference. Both Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley have very high ground ball percentages (GB%) and those ground balls are usually the majority of their outs (Miley-52.5% Chacin- 43.2%). Having a tighter defense on the field with pitchers with high GB% can save quite a few baserunners and runs overall.

Defense

1B- Jesus Aguilar, 2B- Jonathan Schoop/Hernan Perez, SS- Orlando Arcia, 3B- Travis Shaw/Mike Moustakas

With this lineup you are putting out not only really good defense but a good offense as well. Jesus Aguilar again is staying at 1B. He is a great defensive first baseman and his offense speaks for itself. At 2B is Jonathan Schoop or Hernan Perez depending on who is swinging the better bat. Travis Shaw is just too new at this point and with ground ball pitchers the double play will be very important. Not saying that Shaw is not capable, but it comes down to 2B is more “natural” to Schoop or Perez. Orlando Arcia is one of the best defensive SS in the league. Although his offense can lack, he has been better since his stint in AAA. With 3B you could really go either way, Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas are both very good third baseman. At the end of the day who is playing can really depend on what pitcher they are facing. Wanting to put a more defensive lineup on the field, you are willing to give up some offensive production at different positions.

Quick outfield breakdown

On the Brewers 25-man roster right now they are only carrying four true outfielders. The way their roster is, there are more players who can take on an outfield position. For example, Eric Thames is a great option when wanting to give someone a day off or playing matchups. While facing a RHP, the outfield looks like this: LF- Christian Yelich, CF- Lorenzo Cain, RF- Eric Thames. When up against a LHP, the outfield switches a little bit: LF- Ryan Braun, CF- Lorenzo Cain, RF- Christian Yelich. With Eric Thames being a leftie, he is a great option against a RHP. Against a LHP, he dips quite a bit. Having Eric Thames as an option for the outfield, not only do you add a very good bat in the lineup, you are able to give Ryan Braun the off days he needs. Since giving Braun the days off he needs he has been healthier and it for sure shows on the field.

Obviously these lineups can vary depending off days, but for the most part this is how it is potentially going to look the rest of the season. The Brewers have put together an impressive roster allowing them to play with matchups. That is due to having versatile players. Not only does it give you the option to put the best players out on the field, but you have bench options for later in the game. The lineup this year has been different day to day, but when digging into why it does, it makes so much sense.

 

Brewers Offseason Outlook: Free Agency

With a farm system that doesn’t provide many opening-day ready solutions at the moment, the Brewers will likely look to free agency to fill the holes that their current roster has. Given the likely non-tender of Jonathan Schoop, second base looks to be a position of need, and you can assume that the Brewers would welcome upgrades at catcher and to their rotation, if reasonable. The Brewers also will give bullpen pieces a look, but those are expected to be complimentary pieces rather than the elite options the market may have. Let’s take a look at some potential targets at each of those positions:

(Note: the options listed are not exhaustive lists of free agents at that position)

Second Base

Top of the Market Options: Asdrubal Cabrera, Marwin Gonzalez, DJ Lemahieu

Middle Tier Options: Ian Kinsler, Jed Lowrie

Cost-Conscious Options: Derek Dietrich, Daniel Descalso

Notes: The Brewers are likely not looking for long-term fix due to presence of Keston Hiura and Mauricio Dubon in minors. Josh Harrison could come on a one-year deal after a down 2018 season, but it remains to be seen whether he is an upgrade over an in-house option like Hernan Perez. The Brewers have had reported interest in Kinsler in the past, which could make him a target… Given that Cabrera, Gonzalez, and Lemahieu sit atop the market and will command longer term deals, the Brewers are likely out on them. The Brewers have previously had interest in Dietrich, and he fits their model of having versatile players (has experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF). However, he plays none of those positions particularly well and has only logged 77 innings at second base since 2016. Descalso is another option, and has extensive experience at second base.

Starting Pitching

Top of the Market Options: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel

Middle Tier Options: Nathan Eovaldi, J.A. Happ, Yusei Kikuchi, Anibal Sanchez

Cost-Conscious Options: Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Ervin Santana

Although the Brewers have a plethora of rotation options already on the roster, if David Stearns finds the right fit at the right price he will pull the trigger. The Brewers probably will not be able to compete financially for Patrick Corbin, so he is likely out. Keuchel will also likely command too high of a salary. Happ and Eovaldi could each make sense at their price points (about $15 million annually), and the Brewers have been linked to Happ in the past. Eovaldi could also appeal to the front office given their emphasis on taking an analytical approach, as Eovaldi possesses some great peripherals.

Anibal Sanchez is an option the Brewers have been loosely connected to as well. Sanchez is coming off a phenomenal season that saw him post a 2.83 ERA and 8.89 K/9 over 24 games started for the Atlanta Braves. He developed a lethal cutter this season as his new go-to pitch while allowing the lowest rate of hard contact of any pitcher. Both of those are legitimate improvements, and should translate over to 2019. Sanchez will likely command a multi-year deal, but it could be a risk the Brewers are willing to take if they believe his 2018 successes were not a fluke

Of the cost-conscious options, Miley is the most likely option given the organization’s familiarity with him. Miley will likely seek a multi-year contract, so it is up in the air if the Brewers are willing to do that based on 80 innings pitched in 2018. Although he was successful in preventing runs (2.57 ERA), some of the peripherals point towards regression in 2019, such as a career low 5.58 strikeout rate and HR/FB (home run to fly ball) ratio of 5.2% that is sure to increase. Cahill fits the same profile as Miley, being a veteran option coming off a successful season but having somewhat hazy projections for how he will perform in 2019. The Brewers could also take a flier on a rebound candidate like Chris Tillman or Marco Estrada, much like they did with Miley last season.

Catcher

Top of the Market Options: Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos

Middle Tier Options: Martin Maldonado

Cost-Conscious Options: AJ Ellis, Nick Hundley, Jonathan Lucroy

Other than Grandal and Ramos, the catching market is not very inspiring. I cannot think Grandal has left a good impression on the Brewers following his lackluster performance in the NLCS, and he likely is out of their price range anyways. Ramos could be an intriguing fit, as he would be a great offensive upgrade (.845 OPS in 2018) while not sacrificing much defensively from the current combination of Piña/Kratz. He will command a 3-4 year deal in the range of $10-12 million annually, so as with every other player, it depends on if the Brewers are willing to commit that much payroll space, especially to an older player with an injury history like Ramos.

Maldonado could be a fit, as he is still an outstanding defender but leaves much to be desired with the bat. He may not be a large enough upgrade over Kratz/Pina for the Brewers to make the move.

AJ Ellis could be an under-the-radar target, and he would likely welcome an opportunity to play in Wisconsin, where he trains during the offseason. He is coming off a surprising 2018 that saw him post strong numbers offensively. He recorded a 14.2% walk rate and a .378 on-base percentage en route to a 105 wRC+, which signifies that he was 5% better than the league average hitter. That’s quite the mark for a catcher in today’s game, where catchers that offer meaningful offensive contributions are hard to come by.

Relief Pitcher

Top of the Market Options: Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino

Middle Tier Options: Cody Allen, Brad Brach, Joakim Soria

Cost-Conscious: Ryan Madson, Adam Warren

Given the bullpen’s already-strong core of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress, the Brewers are unlikely to look at the top of the market. All three options in the middle tier could be interesting. Allen may be the most interesting of all, as he is formerly an elite closer but experienced some troubles in 2018 en route to posting a 4.70 ERA. If the Brewers sign him and can iron out whatever issues exist, he could be a high-impact add.

With bullpen pieces, you really never know what the Brewers are going to do. They will likely take some fliers by signing players to minor league contracts to invites with spring training, much like they did with J.J. Hoover in 2018.

Brinsanity is Coming Soon

Brinsanity will happen in Milwaukee at some point in 2017, it’s just a matter of when. Lewis Brinson has taken the Pacific Coast League by storm since getting traded to the Brewers organization last August. Since the trade, all he has done is post a .384 average with 7 homers and 13 doubles in 138 at-bats. Those are phenomenal numbers for the 23-year-old outfielder. It seems as if every single night MLB Pipeline is tweeting about a crazy good night at the plate or a sensational grab he makes in the field. He possesses the potential to become a star and the fans are itching to see this guy roam the outfield at Miller Park.

 

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Sorry Brewer fans, but you won’t see Brinson in Milwaukee until late May at the earliest. It doesn’t make much sense to start his service clock early with the contract implications at this point of the rebuild. I think we will all get a glimpse of Brinsanity at the major league level in mid-June. There are a number of situations that could ensue in the next few months to push Brinson to the bigs. Braun may be traded. Keon Broxton & Domingo Santana may not turn it around. Injuries might happen. It’s only a matter of time until Brinson makes his way to the Brewers.

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Through 23 games the offensive production from the outfield minus Braun as been abysmal.  Broxton, who was tabbed as a breakout candidate, has not produced. He is hitting .169 and has struck out in 44% of his at-bats. It’s been tough for him to use his speed when he isn’t putting the ball in play or getting on base. The strikeout rate is concerning. The defense he brings is awesome, everyone is just hoping he can turn it around with the stick. Domingo Santana is also having some early season woes. He’s hitting .169 but has been walking at a decent clip to bring is OBP to .276. The walks have been promising; however, he hasn’t quite been the big bat in the middle of the order everyone was hoping for. Don’t expect them either of them to be taken out of the lineup anytime soon. Counsell has gone out and said he was going to let these guys play through their struggles because he believes they are potential impact players. Lets just hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Ryan Braun has been….well….Ryan Braun. He’s consistent. You know what you’re going to get. A player that hits around .300 with 25+ homers, 85+ RBI and solid defense. When he’s on the field you know what you’re going to get. The only things that could take Braun out of the lineup is an injury or trade. The trade rumors are already rolling. Once again the Dodgers seem to be a nice fit for Braun. I’m sure that as the season goes on there will be more contenders that will be in the market for him. There is an important deadline looming on May 24th that could speed up the process. Once that date hits Braun will acquire the 10-and-5 rights which will virtually give him the ability to deny any trade. A player gets this by having 10 years of MLB service time and spending the last 5 seasons with the same team. His contract and his past makes a potential trade more difficult but there is always a market for one of the premier corner outfielders in baseball. As someone who has watched and marveled at Braun’s greatness the past decade it would be tough to see him go. Just understand that it may have to happen for the good of the organization.

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By the end of the season the outfield could have an entirely different feel. Braun and Santana could be dealt. Keon’s struggles may continue. Stearns is dealing from a position of strength. Prospects such as Ryan Cordell, Brett Phillips, Trent Clark and Corey Ray are also rated very high in the system and play outfield. Not very often is a player sent up that could potentially be the next face of the franchise. Lewis Brinson is that kind of talent. Scouts have compared him to Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, and has the skill set to become a superstar. A young core that consists of Eric Thames, Orlando Arcia, Jonathan Villar, and Lewis Brinson is certainly something to get excited about. The future is looking bright in Milwaukee.