As part of what I hope to be a recurring column here on Brew Crew Ball, I thought I’d break the 2016 campaign into 10% increments. By keeping a running total of each increment, it’ll allow us to track individual and team performance throughout the season and see what trends, if any, emerge. This is still a fluid process for me, so please leave any criticism/suggestions for improvement in the comments section.
Through April 21st
The Brewers currently sit in the cellar in the NL Central. However, only the Chicago Cubs have really distanced themselves from the pack in the division, sitting at 12-4. The Crew sits only 1.5 games back of the second-place team Cardinals.
Offensive Team Stats:
BA: .226 (13th in NL)
OBP .315 (7)
R: 60 (11)
HR: 15 (8)
BB: 66 (3)
K: 147 (14)
SB: 5 (14)
The Brewers have really struggled to this point in terms of batting average, strikeouts and runs scored. Take the 10 run outburst in Wednesday’s game against the Twins off the board and the offensive production looks even bleaker.
The offense has been propped up to this point in part thanks to the team’s early ability to draw walks. Out of the regulars, Jonathan Villar, Scooter Gennett, Domingo Santana, Chris Carter and Ryan Braun all have at least 7 walks. Additionally, they have gotten middle of the road power production, with Carter swatting 4 HR’s and Braun and Gennett chipping in 3 round trippers a piece.
Pitching Team Stats:
ERA: 5.52 (14)
HR: 27 (14)
BB: 66 (13)
SO: 99 (15)
(sigh) It’s hard to find anything nice to say about the Brewers pitching staff as a whole. Outside of Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson (for the most part), the starting rotation has been in shambles. Nelson has emerged as the de facto staff ace, but base on balls and the long ball have given him trouble in his past few starts. You have to appreciate his attitude though. Even when he has a decent stat line and wins the game, he is critical of his own mistakes and holds himself to a higher standard.
The bullpen has been a Jekyll and Hyde group to say the least. Capuano, Torres and Freeman have all struggled to varying degrees in filling the middle innings/mop-up duty. Thornburg and Blazek have looked stellar in the 7th and 8th innings, with Thornburg having only one hiccup on his record as a result of two HR’s given up in Tuesday’s outing against the Twins. Jeffress has gotten into a few jams up to this point, but remains unscored upon and is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities. If Knebel and Smith were both able to return to the pen before season’s end (a big IF, obviously), they could displace some of the less effective relievers and turn the relief corps into one of the best in baseball.
The strength (and weakness) of this bullpen has directly contributed to the outcomes of most games. When the Brewers are losing, they are typically being blown out as a result of short starts and poor middle relief. When the Brewers are winning, their starters are pitching well enough to keep them in the game. Then, the high leverage relievers are closing out games with little margin for error.
MVPP – Most Valuable Position Player
Scooter Gennett: While Scoot’s .260 batting average does not jump off the page, his .373 on-base percentage certainly does. He has taken well to hitting in front of Ryan Braun most days, walking 9 times and scoring 11 runs through 10% of the season. He has not shown a propensity to walk a whole lot in past seasons (he had only 12 free passes last year in nearly 400 PA’s) so this may just scream small sample size. If he can continue to be patient at the plate, it would serve two potential purposes: (1) increase his overall trade value if the club was looking to move him or (2) raise his profile within the organization as a potential long-term solution at second base. I personally still believe that Jonathan Villar will shift over to second base full-time when Orlando Arcia is eventually called up. However, Scooter is not making that decision any easier on the Brewers. Outside of his home run off of Madison Bumgarner on opening day, Scooter has been unable to quiet the critics who say he can’t hit left handed pitching. It remains his only base hit off of a lefty this year in a limited 10 at-bats.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Chris Carter
LVPP – Least Valuable Position Player
Aaron Hill: I’m really glad he was able to hit the go-ahead home run on Wednesday night’s game so there would be actual tangible evidence that he’s provided benefit to this team offensively. Outside of that swing, he hasn’t done much. A .170 batting average, 8 K’s and a 24 OPS+ (!!) leaves a lot to be desired on offense. On the plus side, he has made a handful of nice defensive plays over at the hot corner which is impressive given his limited experience at the position over his major league career. Colin Walsh has not worked over at third offensively or defensively, in limited reps. If Hill continues to struggle for another couple of weeks, I wonder if Counsell will consider starting Yadiel Rivera on a more regular basis at short and slide Villar over to third.
Dishonorable Mention: Pretty much anyone who has started in CF this year (Alex Presley, come on down!)
MVP – Most Valuable Pitcher
Jimmy Nelson: It still boggles my mind that he wasn’t the Opening Day starter. Must have been because he wanted to give Wily a vote of confidence after a shaky spring (and we’ve all seen how well that’s worked out). We’ve already discussed his problems with walks and home runs, but he’s kept the Brewers in every game that he’s pitched, which isn’t something that any other starter can claim. I’d like to see him increase his K/9 and pitch a bit deeper into games, but he has been as advertised so far in this young season. He has the potential to anchor the next contending rotation here in Milwaukee, and a sub 4.00 ERA over the course of the whole season would be the first step on that journey.
Honorable Mention: Jeremy Jeffress, Chase Anderson
LVP – Least Valuable Pitcher
Wily Peralta: I was really hoping for a bounce back season this year. I think we all were. Through 4 starts, it just has not materialized to this point. His last start was his best, but he still didn’t look sharp and struggled just getting through 5 innings. It was his first start in which he pitched more innings than earned runs given up. Wily will get the benefit of the doubt on a rebuilding Brewers squad, so he’ll get a chance to get back on track. Much like Hill, however, if he shows no signs of improvement over the next month or so, it would not surprise me if the Brewers placed him on the DL with a sore shoulder or even moved him to the bullpen.
Dishonorable Mention: Taylor Jungmann, Sam Freeman
Highlight of the Season (so far): It’s gotta be Sunday’s homer in the ninth off of Trevor Rosenthal in St. Louis, right? It came after Brandon Moss’ 8th inning blast off of Michael Blazek, tying the score and basically assuring that those smug Cardinal fans would go home happy. The ninth inning walk off run for the Cards was a mere formality. Then Santana clobbered a 97 mph offering from Rosenthal, changing the whole narrative in an instant. For one glorious night, the rebuilding Brewers would get the last laugh over those damn Red Birds.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference