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60% of your 2016 Milwaukee Brewers – Trade Deadline Looming

As we inch closer to the trade deadline, all of the suspense left in the 2016 Brewers season lies in who will still be left standing on the roster by the end of it.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Through July 25th (97 games)

Record: 42-55

Driven by the power surge of 4 home runs Monday night against the hated D’Backs, the Brewers close this 10% stanza at a respectable 7-9. It was an interesting portion of the schedule, as the Brewers went 3-1 against NL West & East opponents while only managing a 4-8 record against the NL Central. There was a 12 game stretch against the entire NL Central and the Brewers were nothing if not consistent: losing two of three in each of the 4 series. Two of those losses occurred after the Brewers carried leads into the 6th inning and blew them (7/16 @ Cincinnati and 7/24 against the Cubs). Another two occurred in back-to-back games as a result of walk off errors (Gennett’s throwing error and a pass ball charged to Lucroy). The last 16 games have definitely been a microcosm of the Brewers 2016 season as a whole: flashes of brilliance (taking 2 of 3 from Washington and nearly doing the same against the Cubs) marred by inconsistency (the offense failing to show up in the last two games against St. Louis and the finale against Cincinnati). As we inch towards the trade deadline on Sunday, there is a real sense of anticipation of new talent infusion in the minor league ranks. A non-competing team like the Brewers will have trades to make over the next few days, it’s just a matter of who, when and what the return looks like.

Thankfully for Cincinnati, the Atlanta Braves are still a thing; otherwise they’d have the dishonor of having the worst record in the NL at 39-60. Both St. Louis and Pittsburgh have made modest gains on the Chicago Cubs over the past 16 contests, checking in at 7 and 8 games back, respectively. While only 1 game separates the Cards and Buccos, there are nearly 100 runs between their run differentials. St. Louis has seemingly underperformed up to this point (a scary thought heading into August and September). Pittsburgh actually has a negative run differential, which points to a team getting lucky through their first 98 games. This week will be particularly important for the Pirates and determining whether they buy or sell at the deadline. While they sit only 1.5 games back of the second wild-card, they still need to vault over 3 tags to capture it, including the Cardinals. At the very least, one bad week could leave the Pirates sitting on their hands come July 31st. Chicago maintains their comfortable lead in the NL Central, courtesy of their meteoric start. They continue their mediocre play as of late, however, checking in at 6-4 over their last 10.

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
Through 48 games 0.244 8 0.328 6 204 8 53 6 198 2 475 15 39 1
Through 64 games 0.245 9 0.327 5 264 10 68 9 256 2 601 15 56 1
Through 81 games 0.248 9 0.326 9 326 12 83 10 302 3 769 15 68 1
Through 97 games 0.245 10 0.323 8 389 12 102 10 359 2 933 15 95 1

The offense continues their ‘stars and scrubs’ attack, leaning heavily on 4 of their top 5 hitters (Villar, Braun, Lucroy and Carter) and little else from their 4 other regulars. Jonathan Villar continues to be a good table setter for the Brewers, with a triple slash line of .296/.380/.436 coupled with the most thefts in baseball with 36. Ryan Braun and Jonathon Lucroy provide the average for the Brewers, hitting .323 and .301, respectively. They have also combined for 27 HR’s and 96 RBI’s. While Chris Carter does not provide much in the way of batting average (.218), he leads the team in both home runs (22) and RBI’s (55).

The only other regular starter within shouting distance of average OPS+ is Scooter Gennett (92). He has acquitted himself rather nicely at the plate this year against lefties, hitting .259/.348/.431 against southpaws in a limited 58 AB’s. He has also shown a very patient eye at the plate to this point, with nearly twice as many free passes to this point this year versus all of 2015 (23 vs 12).

The Brewers would actually have something in Captain Kirk if only they played all of their games at Miller Park. His home/away splits are truly astounding: his batting average is about 200 points higher at home and his on-base percentage is also 150 points better in Milwaukee. Additionally, all but one of his 8 home runs has come in the Cream City.

At this point in the season, it becomes difficult to move the needle too much in NL ranks over a 16 game stretch. They continue to excel at swiping bags (1st) and drawing walks (2nd) yet struggle with the strikeouts (dead last) and scoring runs (12th). It has been surprising to see a team so good at practicing patience struggle so mightily at scoring runs. This has been attributable to two main factors: they aren’t hitting enough (.245 team batting average good for 10th in the NL) and their hitting even less with RISP (.238 as a team).

Jonathan Lucroy continues to do nothing but enhance his trade value batting a cool .301/.361/.488. As we inch closer to the end of July, it seems like a foregone conclusion that some contender will up their offer to match David Stearns’ asking price. There has been no shortage of bidders it seems, as the Mets, Red Sox, Indians, Astros and Rangers have all shown varying levels of interest. It could be fun to see Stearns get a crack at his former employer in Houston as the last Brewer/Astro swap worked out pretty well for the Crew.

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 48 games 4.52 12 67 14 184 11 353 12
Through 64 games 4.52 10 86 14 221 9 472 12
Through 81 games 4.53 11 101 13 286 10 595 13
Through 97 games 4.32 10 112 10 340 10 704 15

The Brewers pitching staff, similar to the bats, has been feast or famine on the season. The trio of Davies, Nelson and Guerra have certainly held up their end of the bargain, combining for a 3.32 ERA across their 52 starts. All three have been above league average by ERA+, with Zach Davies coming in on the low end at 116. They have also been able to go relatively deep into games, averaging a shade over 6 innings per start. Unfortunately, only Nelson was penciled into the starting rotation on the Opening Day roster. While 60% of the current rotation leaves you hopeful for a win when it’s their turn to take the ball, the inconsistent nature of the offense has contributed to only a 19-14 won-loss record among the three.

On the famine side of things, every other starting pitcher for the other 45 starts (save the one start by Tyler Cravy). Taylor Jungmann, Chase Anderson, Wily Peralta and Matt Garza have combined for a 6.25 (!) ERA across 44 starts. The ‘best’ ERA+ among the 4 belongs to Anderson, with a paltry 78. The average start among the not-so Fearsome Foursome is less than 5 innings. All 4 have double digit hits per 9 innings, and the best WHIP among the group is Anderson’s lackluster 1.453

The two premier trade pieces throwing out of the bullpen, Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith, have both performed admirably over the past two weeks, with the exception of Smith’s implosion in taking the loss in the finale against the Cubs. Heading into that game, Smith’s ERA had dipped below 2.00. Jeffress’ ERA sits at a tidy 2.23 to go along with his 23 saves on the year. With the bounty the Yankees recently attained for trading off 3 months of Aroldis Chapman, the Brewers should set their sights high for the return for either Smith or Jeffress. Their salaries will start to rise as they both enter arbitration next season. However, both are affordable and can be retained through the 2019 season, making them valuable trade chips.

Carlos Torres has also been an impressive offseason pickup of David Stearns, dropping his ERA below 3.00. Any team looking to make a second tier bullpen pickup would be sure to give the Brewers a call as we approach the end of July.

60% awards

MVPP – Most Valuable Position Player

Jonathan Lucroy: You can make a valid case that Villar, Lucroy or Braun should be in line for this award and I wouldn’t argue with you. I’m going with Lucroy if only for the fact that we might be witnessing his final games in a Brewer uniform. He’s been a lot of fun to watch grow and develop over the past 6 years. He has transitioned from a capable starting catcher to a premier pitch framer and an elite offensive talent behind the dish. Even though some people are high on Nottingham (myself included), it’s easy to take for granted what Lucroy provides at the catcher position until he’s no longer around. Nottingham will have some rather large shoes to fill once he gets his chance, presumably by 2018.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Villar, Ryan Braun

LVPP – Least Valuable Position Player

Ramon Flores: As bad as Nieuwenhuis has been, at least he occasionally runs into a ball and knocks it out of the yard. Flores’ triple slash is downright putrid: .212/.295/.261(!). It’s difficult to see why the Brewers keep him around, especially with a guy like Keon Broxton already on the 25 man, who possesses more defensive flexibility and speed coupled with higher upside. At least with Flores around and Middlebrooks on the shelf, we should be spared any more Hernan Perez starts in right.

Dishonorable Mention: Martin Maldonado

MVP – Most Valuable Pitcher

Junior Guerra: There has recently been some chatter on whether or not the Brewers should float Guerra on the trade market. The thought process here is that he’s already 31 and we may be selling him at his absolute peak. If the Brewers can practice patience, he’s much more likely to net a higher trade return in future years once he has proven he can do this over entire seasons. Additionally, even at his advanced age, he might be the type of guy the Brewers would want to keep. He may be 31, but his pitching workload to this point profiles much closer to that of a 27 year old.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies

LVP – Least Valuable Pitcher

Matt Garza: Even when Garza was dancing around trouble his first few starts this year, we all knew it wouldn’t last. The other shoe has finally dropped and we’re all left wondering when the Brewers will simply cut bait on Garza and pay him to go away. His ERA is soaring to 5.94, while his 1.76 WHIP is equally if not more alarming. At least when September rolls around and the roster sizes expand, the Brewers can bring up a youngster from AAA to take Garza’s spot away and make a handful of starts down the stretch.

Dishonorable Mention: Michael Blazek, Chase Anderson

Highlight of the Season (so far): Winning the series at home against the Cubs. Until the club goes on some sort of extended winning streak (think 6 games or more), this will remain the highlight of the season.

Top 5 Trade Candidates:

1) Jonathan Lucroy: This one seems to fall in the ‘when’ not ‘if’ category at this point. I commend Stearns for being patient and letting the market come to him, but it seems like we almost must trade Luc by the July 31st deadline. Waiting again until next offseason will cost the Brewers a lot of leverage in trade talks. An acquiring team would much rather have Lucroy for two playoff pushes instead of one.

2) Jeremy Jeffress: As this article is being penned on July 30th, Jeffress sits at an even 25 saves. Not too shabby for a player who has never served in that role for an extended period previously. The Brewers have nowhere near the same amount of urgency to deal Jeffress as they do Lucroy, so they should be patient.

3) Will Smith: His hiccup against the Cubs notwithstanding, Smith should be one of if not the premier left handed reliever on the trade market now that Aroldis Chapman has been snapped up by the Cubs.

4) Ryan Braun: The Hebrew Hammer has done nothing to diminish his trade value, as his average sits at .323. Despite his strong showing this season (albeit with diminished power numbers) the trade market for Braun has been brisk to this point. His contract is not onerous, so the Brewers should not feel compelled to move him at this point. With his recent injuries woes, the Crew would do well to get 140 games out of Braun this year and in the years to come.

5) Chris Carter: This last spot was honestly a toss-up between Carter, Torres and Guerra. Teams in the playoff push, especially offensively challenged ones, will often pay a premium for power at the trade deadline. Carter represents one of the purest power options that will be made available at the deadline.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference