Know Your Foe: Milwaukee Brewers Preview or How many 7-6 games can they win this year?

"Da Team Up Nort'" were quite the nuisance last year. After their demolition of the Cubs at Wrigley on NFL opening weekend, it actually felt like a race there for a hot minute. Of course, the Cubs went the whole, "No one makes me bleed my own blood" route the last two weeks of the season, including winning two of three in Milwaukee to put all that nonsense to bed. While the Brew Crew could run the Cubs pretty close again if everything goes right for them and a couple things go wrong for the Cubs, they should be a wild card contender. The real question is why they didn't push in a little more to lock down said contention and give themselves every chance to haul the Cubs down in September. You'll see in a minute.

Projected Everyday Lineup

1. Christian Yelich - LF

2. Lorenzon Cain - CF

3. Travis Shaw - 3b

4. Needles McGee - 1b

5. Domingo Santana - RF

6. Manny Pina - C

7. Orlando Arcia - SS

8. Jonathan Villar - 2b

This lineup has a little flexibility to it, and will depend on if they use Santana full-time. It depends on if the Brewers think Eric Thames's big September portends to more consistency, i.e. not being a giant sucking sound for the middle four months of the season, or he just took advantage of September call-ups and pitchers who could barely keep their eyes open. That would see Braun shift to left, Yelich or Cain to right and Santana to the bench. Also what they make of Santana should be worth a watch. He slugged .505 with 30 homers but also ran a .363 BABIP which would suggest he will meet the Earth this year. But given his near 40% hard-contact rate of last year, I'm not convinced he isn't one of those that's just going to run a high BABIP. And some of this gets solved when Braun has his bi-monthly injury anyway.

Either way this is a pretty solid lineup. Yelich gives them solid OBP skills and gap-to-homer power at the top of the lineup. Cain returns to Milwaukee and while he doesn't fit the normal profile of a top of the lineup hitter, his bat-to-ball skills means he gets no base more than you think and that speed is still real. Both of these things may erode by the time his deal is up, but that's not really a concern for this year. That puts a lot more runners on base ahead of Santana, Shaw, and Needles McGee than last year, and they can aim higher than 11th in runs scored.

Still, why didn't this team want Neil Walker taking the second base ABs instead of Jonathan Villar? Do they think they can miracle another year out of Eric "Nerd Power" Sogard? Because I got news for them on that front. This will be a good lineup, it could have been better.

Starting Rotation

  • Chase Anderson
  • Jhoulys Chacin
  • Zach Davies
  • Junior Guerra
  • Wade Miley?

Again, it's not that this rotation is bad, it just could have been better. Some will depend on the return of Jimmy Nelson, which looks to be somewhere in the neighborhood of July. Zach Davies does a fine poor man's impression of Kyle Hendricks, but Hendricks strikes out more guys and if Ryan Braun is going to take most of the innings at first Davies can expect to have more runners on after Braun tries to catch throws from Arcia and Shaw with his teeth. Chase Anderson was just about full-value for his 2.74 ERA last year, but one wonders how long any pitcher can keep a HR/FB rate under 10% in this environment. Any rise in that is going to be a problem for Anderson. The less we say about Guerra, Chacin, and Miley the better off we'll all be. Brandon Woodruff and Luis Ortiz somewhat stalled out in their development last year, so it's up in the air if they can take some starts over Miley or given injury/immolation rom the bottom three of this rotation. Even if Nelson returns at full-strength, couldn't this outfit have done with Arrieta or Cobb? Maybe Arrieta didn't fancy it but still, shouldn't there have been more of an effort? When Anderson or Davies aren't out there this team is going to have to win a fair share of 7-6 games. And as we just said, the lineup could have been more juiced to do that than it is.

Bullpen

  • Corey Knebel
  • Josh Hader
  • Matt Albers (HEY HEY HEY)
  • Jeremy Jeffress
  • Jacob Barnes
  • Bone Loogan (Or Boone Logan, if you prefer)
  • JJ Hoover/Yovani Gallardo

A clear strength but one wonders if they're going to die of exhaustion given the use last year and the back end of the rotation this year. Knebel was nails at the end but made 76 appearances last year. Barnes made 73. Hader looked a real weapon at times but is going to have to find the plate more often than he did. Albers was highly effective in DC last year but the combination of him and Milwaukee's bratwurst supply seems tricky at best. If he reverts to his high-walk ways this could go backwards. Boone Logan will be in someone's pen three days after the sun swallows us all. Again, there's a lot here but it's going to have to do a lot as well. Reinforcements will probably be needed.

This is a good team. It could have been better. It should be good enough to jockey in the wild card mess and have a good shot at getting in. But you can't help but wonder if there wasn't more on the table they could have grabbed. The back end of the rotation and perhaps overworked pen keep them from running with the big boys this time around.

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  • I agree: targeting Arrieta seemed to make all the sense in the world.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    If you can't afford that deal for Arrieta, then the only way you ever land a top starter in Milwaukee is by developing him. Sad for Brewers fans who had a very interesting and aggressive offseason to backfill their lineup to prevent regression from completely wiping out the gains they made last year.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    It's possible (and I stress possible) that they weren't comfortable committing that kind of money to a guy who had lost velocity and showed signs of being on the downward swing of his career. But then, why weren't they more involved on Darvish?

    Also, possible the Cubs aren't the only team that found out it's difficult to move hitting prospects for starting pitchers.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It is a possibility, but if there weren't those questions marks the price would certainly have been far higher.

    It also seemed clear their plan was to move Domingo Santana for pitching, but do wonder if the juiced ball/power explosion has really devalued power to a degree. Particular to a guy like Santana that really put it together for the first time last year.

    Either way if they had been willing to go just a litle bit further with money this offseason, they could've had a much stronger contender for a postseason spot then they currently have right now.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    It is odd they did not sign a quality starter this offseason, if not Arrieta (who is still high quality). This year, of all years, was the year to do it. This was the Grand Daddy of all Buyers markets. I know they did sign Cain, but you have to wonder at the cheapness of the organization. This is a playoff contender. Maybe they have a young stud waiting in the minors who they will bring up this year.

  • I've read a few interviews with Braun discussing his transition to 1B. He says it is a much more challenging task than people realize, and playing the position really aggravates his back issues. I haven't heard him say it specifically, but I don't think he's too thrilled with the idea in general. Ha!

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Didn’t think about it until you said it but that would be brutal for someone with a bad back. (Up and down for ground balls and balls in the the dirt, swipe tags, stretching for throws.) bit of a mess. That can’t lead to a cheery clubhouse.

    One of the things Maddon doesn’t get enough credit for: he manages to keep guys happy as role players when they would be starting for other teams (the LaStella fiasco being the obvious exception).

  • Despite the headline, it should be more like "How many 13-3 games can the Brewers lose this year?" Especially with a White Sox bullpen of the last decade (as you noted with the Fat Albers reference).

    I also see you don't have (as Rosenbloom put it) The Kosher Butcher of Left Field in the lineup. But with Frank Thomas now hawking a testosterone supplement, nobody is truly clean.

  • There are a couple things I don't understand about Milwaukee this offseason. The acquisition of Yelich was a nice get butthat haul should have been enough to get a starting pitcher. The rumor at the time was that they offered a similar package to Tampa Bay for Archer, but the Rays wouldn't bite. Of course TB has been asking entirely too much for Archer in the first place so I can't really blame the Brewers there but were they in on Gerrit Cole? If not they should have been but maybe Pittsburgh didn't want to trade in division, we obviously have no clue. So then they get Yelich, no longer have the pieces to trade for a pitcher but still don't sign a guy. They were supposedly in on Cobb right up until yesterday and may have been one of the rumored three teams that had four year offers on the table and yet if that's true they lost out to Baltimore? The fact is they needed a pitcher and they failed to acquire one. I think they'll continue to be pesky this year but I thought they were a serious threat to compete for the division with the right moves, but despite not being idle they didn't make them. They look like about an 86 win to me, probably finishing in second about 8-9 games back.

  • I said it all last year, and I still hold to it... I don't believe in the Brewers. They had career years from a lineup full of mediocre players. They have about 6 starting OF. Eric Thames is bad. If one of Braun or Santana can't play 1B, then at least one of your top 4 or 5 bats has to sit consistently. Yelich and Cain are both very nice additions, but it seems like they made those moves while banking on being able to trade another OF for a SP. How can they have added so much offense, and failed to address the giant question mark of a rotation? I thought they should have added Arrieta or Cobb, like others have said. But how could they not top the Twins' offer for Lynn? He would have immediately slotted as their number 2 until Nelson comes back. And yeah, Neil Walker is a really nice hitter. Why would you trade for him and then not even make him an offer the next winter?
    I don't buy the Brewers. I think they finish 3rd with between 80 and 85 wins.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    You may be right, Kramer, but if their season tanks it will be because the starters got shelled, or injuries, most likely.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think last year was a very big surprise to Sterns and the Brewers. Although they made a couple big moves this off-season I wonder if they know that their window to overtake the cubs isn't here yet and that is why they didn't sign a top of the rotation arm.

  • In reply to jefeggs2542:

    Right, but Lynn got 1 year, $12M. The Brewers poured so much into their offense, but they failed to address their biggest weakness. Lynn would have undoubtedly made them better, and it seems they could have had him for 1 cheap year. Jaime Garcia got 1 year, $8M. Jeremy Hellickson just signed a minor league deal.

  • Milwaukee was dumb not to make even an effort at Jake or Cobb. Right now, Davies and Anderson are there onlypitchers who truly worry you much, and niether of them should be fronting a rotation. Even if Nelson comes back by June, his injury is the type that doesnt help trying to generate enough power to throw hard.. There lineup is good 1-6, so right now they are Harveys wall bangers w/o Pete Vukovich.

  • The Brewers really sucked the last third of the 2017 season. It's what's often happens with a lack of depth. Looks to be a team short on quality stating pitchers, which could again result in another slow finish.

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