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20% of your 2016 Milwaukee Brewers – Second Verse same as the First

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Spoiler Alert: While the hitting has improved, the Brewers pitching staff is still dragging them down...

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Through May 9th (32 games)

Record: 13-19

Watching the game Monday night, I was hoping against hope that the Brewers would pull the upset as Jose Fernandez squared off against Wily Peralta, if only to match their record in the first 16 games in their second 16 games. Even though Wily was able to produce a rare quality start, it was not to be.

The Brewers still reside in the cellar in the NL Central, although they have company with the Reds only a half game ahead. The Chicago Cubs have been the toast of the league to this point, racing out to a 24-6 record coupled with a +102 run differential. I, for one, hope they continue to set fire to the regular season, as it will make their postseason demise all the sweeter for us Brewer fans come October.

Offensive Team Stats:

BA NL Rank OBP NL Rank Runs NL Rank HR NL Rank BB NL Rank K NL Rank SB NL Rank
Through 16 games 0.226 13 0.315 7 60 11 15 8 66 3 147 14 5 14
Through 32 games 0.246 8 0.328 7 144 7 39 5 126 4 290 14 18 7

To put it bluntly, the Brewers offense has not been the reason they’ve started out the year 6 games under .500. The team has improved across the board in batting average, on-base percentage, runs, home runs and stolen bases. They’ve really benefited from a power surge, hitting 1.5 HR per game in the last 16. The club has also scored 1.5 runs more per game in the second 16 as compared to the first 16 (nice coincidence). The only offensive statistic where the Brewers are worse than middle of the road in the National League is strikeouts, which makes sense considering the profile of many of their regulars (Chris Carter, Jonathan Villar, Domingo Santana). Also, it has been encouraging that the crew has maintained their early propensity to draw walks at a strong clip.

Over the past 16 games, the 3-4-5 hitters have really spearheaded the Brewers’ offensive production. Through the first 32 games, Chris Carter has defied all odds with a .273 batting average. While he is surely due for some regression, history tells us his power stroke should remain and he has notched 10 round trippers to this point. His name will be an interesting case study in the Brewers trade deadline plans come July. Lucroy and Braun have done their part in maintaining and even enhancing their trade value to this point. Lucroy is hitting .324 with 17 runs scored, while Braun’s average is up to .363 as he leads the team with 24 RBI’s. It’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers can find a suitable trade package for Braun if he continues to put up these types of numbers. With the baseball’s exploding contracts, his remaining dollars seem much less onerous than they did just a few years ago.

Pitching Team Stats:

ERA NL Rank HR NL Rank BB NL Rank K NL Rank
Through 16 games 5.52 14 27 14 66 13 99 15
Through 32 games 5.59 15 49 14 132 13 217 15

Through 16 games, it appeared as though the Brewers pitching staff had nowhere to go but up. That regression has not kicked in even a little. The team ERA has (amazingly) gotten worse! Even though they’ve reduced the number of home runs given up and increased the strikeouts in the last 16 games, they still rank near or at the bottom of the National League in both categories. Jimmy Nelson continues to be the staff ace, even though he got roughed up a bit in his last start. He’s the only starting pitcher with an ERA+ greater than 100 (114) and it’s not particularly close. The next best starter in terms of ERA+ is newcomer Junior Guerra, who’s only made two starts to this point. The shine has worn off of Chase Anderson’s good start and Taylor Jungmann has been sent down to Colorado Springs.

On the plus side for #2016BrewersAce Junior Guerra, he’s been able to get through 6 innings in both of his starts, which is more than can be said of a majority of the rotation save Nelson. Outside of two bad innings, Guerra has been pretty decent. Hopefully he can bring some stability to a horrid staff. However, if the regular season persists at this rate, the Brewers will likely look outside the organization via free agency/trades to fill a majority of their starting rotation on the next contending squad. Outside of Josh Hader, the minor league starters have left a lot to be desired as well.

The bullpen has certainly held up their end of the bargain through the first 32 games. Blaine Boyer and Carlos Torres have looked better recently in solidifying the middle innings. Outside of his blowup inning against Angels in Milwaukee, Tyler Thornburg has done well in his setup role. Blazek has looked shaky at times with his control, but it has yet to really burn him. Jeremy Jeffress has firmly established himself as another trade candidate, successfully converting all 8 of his save opportunities.

10% awards

MVPP – Most Valuable Position Player

Ryan Braun: He has to be the obvious choice at this point. He’s been locked in at the plate as he’s been driving the ball the other way with authority, which has been a trademark of Braun’s when he is going well. He leads all regulars not only in batting average but also in on-base percentage at .424. If he can get to the All-Star break while still hitting comfortably above .300 with about 15 HR’s, he’ll start to draw some serious trade interest from teams in need of a corner outfield bat.

Honorable Mention: Chris Carter, Jonathan Lucroy

LVPP – Least Valuable Position Player

Colin Walsh: Aaron Hill must have heard about my bashing him in this column and decided to pick up the slack a bit. His fellow second/third baseman gets the nod at the 20% mark. His propensity to draw walks has followed him from the Athletics’ organization to Milwaukee. However, the ability to generate offense through the use of his bat has not. Walsh has somehow managed a sub .100 batting average (.098) while still maintaining an OBP above .300 (.315). In a similar number of plate appearances, a case could be made that Yadiel Rivera has been worse, especially offensively. However, Rivera offers more in the way of defense than Walsh. Plus, I’m getting really tired of watching Walsh stare at a third strike in a full count as he hunts for walks.

Dishonorable Mention: Yadiel Rivera, Martin Maldonado

MVP – Most Valuable Pitcher

Jimmy Nelson: Until someone else can string together at least two competent starts in succession, this award is Jimmy’s to lose for the entirety of the season. He is seemingly the only starter that can even think about pitching into the 7th inning. If he could manage to cut down on his walks, he would find himself pitching deeper into games on a more consistent basis.

Honorable Mention: Jeremy Jeffress

LVP – Least Valuable Pitcher

Chase Anderson: I thought about leaving Wily in the hot seat for a second straight article, but he works his way off this distinction as a result of his quality start on Monday in Miami. He still gave up 10 hits, so it’s not like he’s setting the world on fire. At least it’s a step in the right direction I suppose. Anderson has earned this distinction by not being able to work past the fifth inning since his second start. Additionally, he has been giving up runs in bunches early in games, putting the Brewers in significant holes they’ve been unable to climb out of. While steering clear of the long ball in his first two starts, he’s given up 2 home runs per start on average over his last 4 starts. As his velocity sits in the low 90s, he’ll need to improve his command if he’s going to get his HR rate under control.

Dishonorable Mention: Wily Peralta, Zach Davies (Taylor Jungmann ducks this distinction if only because he's now down in Colorado Springs)

Highlight of the Season (so far): Still Sunday’s homer in the ninth off of Trevor Rosenthal in St. Louis. It was an instant momentum shift in the late innings of a win and had the added bonus of coming against the Cardinals. This one might be winning this award for some time.

The only other contender for this award would have to be Aaron Hill clubbing 3 homers against Cincy on Saturday night. With 7 RBI’s, he single-handedly halted the Brewers 3 game losing streak. But to me it feels more like a footnote in Brewers trivia 10 years from now (who can forget Tyler Houston’s exploits in 2000?!)

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference