Outside of all the Hank the Dog conspiracy talk that my good friend Travis recently drummed up, the dominant topic regarding the Milwaukee Brewers this spring has been about just exactly how bad they'll be this year. They've been accused of tanking and many fans and important sports-talk guys have the club pegged for somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 loses in 2016.
"Are you going to watch the Brewers this year, and why?"
"Will you support the team while they're rebuilding?"
"Why should you go to Miller Park this year?"
Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about it already. On paper this club actually doesn't look that awful. They have a youthful roster that's full of players with potential upside. PECOTA currently picks the Brewers to win 78 games, and I personally think they'll end up somewhere in the 74-76 range. Not that bad for a team that's supposedly "tanking."
But what if they're better than that? What would happen if every single one of the 25 players that makes the Opening Day roster plays to their absolute highest potential and stays healthy all year long? How about we find out just how good this Brewers' club could be using the 90th percentile projections that are available on each player's page over at Baseball Prospectus!
|C Jonathan Lucroy||656 PA||.307/.370/.477||18 HR||76 RBI||5 SB||5.9 WARP|
|1B Chris Carter||564 PA||.254/.351/.514||33 HR||93 RBI||3 SB||2.5 WARP|
|2B Scooter Gennett||638 PA||.310/.343/.467||15 HR||70 RBI||7 SB||2.9 WARP|
|3B Aaron Hill||587 PA||.285/.343/.444||16 HR||71 RBI||8 SB||2.1 WARP|
|SS Jonathan Villar||519 PA||.275/.340/.424||12 HR||52 RBI||42 SB||3.3 WARP|
|LF Ryan Braun||644 PA||.316/.385/.555||31 HR||102 RBI||22 SB||7.0 WARP|
|CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis||494 PA||.264/.339/.475||20 HR||66 RBI||9 SB||2.1 WARP|
|RF Domingo Santana||531 PA||.280/.368/.498||24 HR||79 RBI||6 SB||3.2 WARP|
Total Projected Wins Above Replacement Player - 29.0
|INF Colin Walsh||163 PA||.284/.398/.438||4 HR||18 RBI||2 SB||1.2 WARP|
|INF Yadiel Rivera||91 PA||.268/.304/.403||2 HR||9 RBI||2 SB||0.4 WARP|
|OF Rymer Liriano||222 PA||.286/.367/.467||7 HR||29 RBI||7 SB||1.5 WARP|
|OF Ramon Flores||197 PA||.300/.382/.476||6 HR||25 RBI||1 SB||1.3 WARP|
|C Martin Maldonado||275 PA||.266/.337/.421||8 HR||34 RBI||1 SB||2.3 WARP|
Total Projected WARP - 6.7
My word, does that projected offense have me feeling some sort of way. The Brewers have two potential MVP-caliber players in Ryan Braun with 31 home runs, a .940 OPS and 7.0 Wins Above Replacement and Jonathan Lucroy, finding his swing again while putting together an .847 OPS and 5.9 WARP. Both Jonathan Villar and Domingo Santana break out into above-average starters. Even Aaron Hill bounces back with starter-level production! No regular is worth less than 2.0 WARP and even the guys on the bench get in on the action with some excellent play.
Altogether the 90th percentile Brewers average about 4.5 runs per game and clubbed a combined 196 home runs. Every starter reached double-digits in that category while Maldy and Liriano serve as the primary power threats off the bench. Milwaukee's offense alone is worth a staggering 35.7 WARP.
|Wily Peralta||191.2 IP||137 K||55 BB||20 HR||3.49 ERA||3.59 DRA||2.8 WARP|
|Jimmy Nelson||205.2 IP||176 K||62 BB||20 HR||3.19 ERA||3.30 DRA||3.7 WARP|
|Matt Garza||169.1 IP||128 K||48 BB||19 HR||3.48 ERA||3.58 DRA||2.5 WARP|
|Taylor Jungmann||157.2 IP||130 K||53 BB||15 HR||3.31 ERA||3.42 DRA||2.5 WARP|
|Chase Anderson||149.2 IP||118 K||40 BB||16 HR||3.33 ERA||3.44 DRA||2.4 WARP|
Total Projected WARP - 13.9
|Corey Knebel||77.0 IP||82 K||22 BB||8 HR||2.79 ERA||2.92 DRA||1.1 WARP|
|Jeremy Jeffress||74.2 IP||70 K||22 BB||7 HR||2.97 ERA||3.10 DRA||1.0 WARP|
|Will Smith||78.2 IP||96 K||23 BB||6 HR||2.16 ERA||2.27 DRA||1.7 WARP|
|Michael Blazek||68.2 IP||58 K||22 BB||6 HR||3.14 ERA||3.26 DRA||0.8 WARP|
|Tyler Thornburg||72.2 IP||62 K||25 BB||8 HR||3.33 ERA||3.43 DRA||0.8 WARP|
|Sean Nolin||52.0 IP||43 K||17 BB||5 HR||3.16 ERA||3.25 DRA||0.6 WARP|
|Junior Guerra||34.1 IP||39 K||12 BB||2 HR||2.34 ERA||2.45 DRA||0.4 WARP|
Total Projected WARP - 6.4
On the pitching side things aren't quite as exciting as the offense, but the staff is certainly still a strong one overall. Jimmy Nelson steps into the role of de facto "ace," though his numbers aren't quite dominant. Still he acquits himself well as the leader of the pitching staff in his second full big league season, leading the club in innings pitched and posting a 3.19 ERA and 3.7 Wins Above Replacement Pitcher. Both Matt Garza and Wily Peralta enjoy solid bounce back campaigns, and Anderson and Jungmann round out the back end of starting five quite nicely.
In the bullpen, Will Smith takes his dominance to the next level, posting an K/9 of 11 and allowing only a 2.16 ERA while posting 1.7 WARP. Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress also both cross the 1.0 WARP threshold as high-leverage relivers. Thornburg and new addition Sean Nolin perform well in swingmen roles, and Junior Guerra was obviously underutilized based on his excellent 2.34 ERA and 10.3 K/9 rate.
No pitcher on the staff, starter or reliever, posted an ERA above 3.50. Altogether, the 12 pitchers combined for a total of 20.3 WARP.
According to the "Unified Replacement Level" principle over at Fangraphs, a team of all replacement-level players would win a total of 47.7 games over a 162 game season. Our 90th percentile Brewers, however, combined for a total of 56 WARP from both pitchers and hitters. We'll round 47.7 up to the nearest number to get a whole amount of wins:
48 wins + 56 WARP = 104 victories
There you have it folks! If everyone plays to their ceiling, the 2016 Brewers are capable of producing a 104-58 record. That would vault them to the top of the NL Central and into the playoff race. Perhaps the writers and fans were a bit premature in writing off such a talented roster before the season began. Clearly, we should be expecting the Milwaukee Brewers to rally around the loss of their dog mascot and hang a World Series banner from the rafters come November!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus