Welcome to Part 2 of our year in review. (Here’s Part 1). You deserve an upgrade to a Super Platinum BCB Membership if you’ve come this far. You won’t get one, but you deserve it.
And one more really old Fleetwood Mac album for your enjoyment, this time from 1971.
Part One took us through a surprising first three months of the season, a season that saw the Brewers in or around first place for most of the time. In case your memory is full of Swiss Cheese, like mine, here’s a totally subjective selection of the highlights of the second half of 2017.
JULY: Kirk Nieuwenhuis OPS’d 2.000 in July. And was designated for assignment at the end of the month with the return of Jeremy Jeffress. Sometimes doing well doesn’t help. Of course, it was a small sample size. As small as it can get.
July is trade deadline month, and that causes us to write lots of stuff about guys that the Brewers are rumored to have an interest in. That resulted in July having the most articles of the season, which I had in the pool. 207 of them, to be exact. Here is an incomplete list of the players that David Stearns had an interest in: Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana, J. A. Happ, David Phelps, Pat Neshek, Justin Wilson, Ian Kinsler, Justin Verlander, Addison Reed, AJ Ramos, Jaime Garcia, Joe Smith, Anthony Swarzak (finally!), Yu Darvish (kinda), Curtis Granderson, Jeremy Hellickson, and Dan Straily. They did acquire reliever Tyler Webb from the Yankees for blocked firstbase prospect Garrett Cooper, along with Swarzak for AAA outfielder Ryan Cordell.
The Brewers started out the month well and led the Central by 5½ games at the All Star break on July 10th. But a 12-13 month let the Cubs back into the race (and the Cubs played well). Brent Suter went 2-0 in 5 starts, with an ERA of 1.50 and a WHIP of 1.00. Wily Peralta made two relief appearances for a WHIP of 3.55 and an ERA of 17.18...and Paolo Espino posted an ERA of 18.00 in his one two inning start. Wily was gone by the end of the month, and Michael Blazek’s disastrous start against the Nats on July 27th (in which he gave up like 10 straight homers) cost him a roster spot as well. Travis Shaw followed up a good June with a 7 homer, 17 homer July.
Joe West took a ball from the stands in the head, Eric Thames didn’t go to the homerun derby, the Brewers won a game in which they made 5 errors, Stephen Vogt went to the DL after a nasty homeplate collision, and I visited Appleton for a T-Rats game,
AUGUST: In 279 plate appearances in August, Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton combined to strike out 97 times. The Brewers still managed to win 15 games while dropping only 12, leaving them at 70-64, but the Brewers finished the month down 3½ games to the Cubs and 2½ back in the Wild Card chase. Zach Davies had decisions in all 6 games he started, going 4-2 with a 2.06 ERA.
Nobody else wanted Wily Peralta or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, either, as they both cleared waivers. So they got to go to Colorado Springs for the rest of their seasons.
Brandon Woodruff finally returned to go into the Brewers’ rotation from his hamstring injury, while Jett Bandy suffered a broken rib and went on the DL. Andrew Susac finally got his chance for the Brewers in 2017 after injuries and better play by the other catchers, with Bandy and Stephen Vogt on the DL. Woodruff’s debut was a success, as Milwaukee topped the Rays 2-0.
An early month home and home series with the Twins ended with four consecutive losses, in what could very well have been the low point of the season. That left the Brewers at 59-59 and tied for third with the Pirates behind the Cubs and Cardinals. A loss the next day to the Reds left the team a game below .500, with BCB readers ready to give up on the season and head back to the rebuild drawing board. But the Brewers won their next game against the Reds in 10 innings, and then welcomed Neil Walker to the squad on a waiver deal with the Mets. Walker slashed .304/.396/.413 in his 15 August games with the Crew, as they went 11-5 for the rest of the month.
Domingo (Sunday) Santana hit his seventh Sunday homer to help beat the Reds on the 13th.
On the 15th, Lewis Brinson saw his season end with a hamstring strain. Brinson remains atop most of the Brewer prospect lists after a fine AAA campaign and a not-so-fine major league debut, and what to do with him in 2018 will continue to be an off-season topic of debate.
Paolo Espino was dealt to the Rangers late in the month, and the Brewers survived a dreaded 9 game swing through Colorado, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with a 5-4 record.
Keon Broxton saved a game against the Cards (yay!) on the 30th, which is nice.
SEPTEMBER: The time-honored tradition of changing how baseball is played during the September/October period struck again, as teams added players to their rosters for the stretch drive. Milwaukee added seven, including two players from the DL (Andrew Susac and Brent Suter), Brett Phillips, Junior Guerra, Wei-Chung Wang, Brandon Woodruff, and righty Taylor Williams from AA to make his big league debut.
Williams made 5 appearances over the last 5+ weeks of the season, working 4.2 innings with a 1.96 ERA and a WHIP of 1.29 while fanning 4. The power armed righty will get a look for the pen in 2018.
The Brewers remained in contention with a 15-12 September, with Jimmy Nelson winning his two starts with a 0.00 ERA and 1.0 WHIP, but he was lost for the the season (and a chunk of 2018) when he injured his pitching shoulder diving back into first base on Sept. 9th.
An opening series three game sweep by the Reds in Cincy was a demoralizing beginning to the month, but the Brewers came back to sweep the Cubs in Chicago for three wins, with a 15-2 laugher sandwiched around 2-0 and 3-1 wins.
September saw Hurricane Irma devastate Florida, and the weekend series from 9/15 to 9/17 was moved to Miller Park. Milwaukee took two of three, and almost 70,000 fans came out for extra baseball at bargain prices.
The Brewers had a second crucial series with the Cubs mid-month, and lost two excruciating extra inning games before Travis Shaw clubbed a two run, tenth inning homer off of Cubs’ closer Wade Davis to salvage game three. A 5-0 loss in the final game of the series effectively left the Brewers with only a Wild Card shot at the play-offs.
Milwaukee fought on, but was finally eliminated on the second to last day of the season, losing to the Cardinals in St. Louis to clinch the final Wild Card spot for Colorado. A win on the last day of the season over St. Louis gave the Brewers an 86-76 record.
Andrew Swarzak did an excellent job over the last month+ of the season, with a WHIP of 0.89 over 15.2 innings.
Maverick Phillips had a fine September, with a slash of .292/.382/.396 and some more exemplary defensive work.
OCTOBER: Travis Shaw ran away with the BCB readers’ MVBrewer poll. Jimmy Nelson’s break-out campaign earned him the second slot; Corey Knebel was #3, and Domingo Santana finished at #4.
The horrible massacre in Las Vegas struck close to the Brewers’ home, as prospect Bubba Derby was in the crowd as shots were fired down among them. His harrowing story is related here.
Three minor/major league fixtures over the past few years elected minor league free agency rather than continue to compete for playing time in Milwaukee, as we officially said goodbye to Michael Blazek, David Goforth, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Wily Peralta added his name to the list a few days later.
Successful seasons - even ones that fall a bit short - are good for extended employment for managers and coaches, and the Brewers’ entire staff will return to continue their efforts in 2018.
Lots of awards are given out in October, but the Sporting News Manager of the Year prize is voted on by the managers themselves. They chose Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell as the top skipper. That’s a great honor.
Zach Davies is a great athlete, albeit a smallish one. But he fields his position exceedingly well, and was rewarded with being a finalist for the Gold Glove at pitcher. He didn’t win, of course, but he was very good. He’s also the best bunter on the team.
Eric Sogard was brought back for another season on a one year deal, and Soda Boy’s status as a fan favorite makes it a welcome move. Nerd Power! His signing was closely followed by Chase Anderson’s inking of an extension that bought out arb years and could end up being a four year deal at a very controllable rate. If Chase comes close to his 2017 effectiveness for that period the Brewers have a bargain. If he regresses some they still have a good deal, and Chase is protected. And if he is injured or bottoms out the commitment is only for two years, with two team option seasons.
NOVEMBER: The Houston Astros gave hope to all rebuilding teams everywhere by taking the World Series in six games from the LA Dodgers. Of course, the Astros are not an impoverished, small market team (impoverished? um...no, none of these teams are impoverished); they have superstars, batting champs, MVPs, can add Justin Verlander at the deadline, etc., but still...
It would appear that Carlos Torres and Quentin Berry will not be part of the Brewers’ plans for 2018, although Berry would probably be welcome at Colorado Springs - especially if Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips make the big squad.
In the “Not So Accurate” category, MLB Trade Rumors predicted an active off season for the Brewers, which has been not so much...at least so far. Since there hasn’t been much action anywhere, it could still happen.
The Milwaukee Brewers ended some long-term speculation about their future in Maryvale, Arizona for spring training by signing a deal that will keep them there for 25 years. That’s a serious extension, folks.
Jimmy Nelson was rewarded with a 9th place finish in the Cy Young voting, and had he learned how to run the bases at some point and finished September as he had started it he would have been higher. His surgery and rehab are not guaranteed to bring him back to his showed ability from last year, so we may never see what he would have become.
Brewer prospects competed in the Arizona Fall League, with nine youngsters participating. The stand-out performer was Monte Harrison, who slashed .283/.333/.604 with 5 homers and 5 steals in 53 at bats over 13 games. Corey Ray struggled (again); Jake Gatewood was awful (4 hits and 18 K’s in 42 at bats); and Adrian Houser finished off a very good comeback season after Tommy John surgery by adding 10.2 innings of work to his 17.2 innings during the regular season. He walked just 2 and fanned 11, giving him 38 k’s an d6 walks in his total of 38.1 innings.
The Brewers moved their 40 man roster to 39 by adding infielder Mauricio Dubon, catcher Jacob Nottingham, RHP Marcos Diplan, and RHP Freddy Peralta (it appears that you must always have a Peralta on your 40 man roster).
The Brewers continued to be linked to various front line pitching targets, either by trade or free agency, but nothing happened at the November meetings. Chris Archer continues to crop up as a possible trade target from the Rays.
DECEMBER: December started off with the re-signing of Stephen Vogt to team with Manny Pina as the Brewers’ catching tandem. Vogt was considered a non-tender candidate for arbitration, with the continued presence of Jett Bandy and Andrew Susac, but Vogt’s left handed power bat and veteran status probably appealed to manager Craig Counsell. Hopefully a winter of rest and rehab will strengthen Vogt’s throwing arm. He signed a one-year deal for just over $3 m. On Dec. 1st they also signed Jeremy Jeffress and surprisingly non-tendered Jared Hughes.
Domingo Santana was rumored to being offered as trade bait by the Brewers, with some interest out there, and of course, some anonymous sources saying the Brewers were asking too much for him, and that the interest really wasn’t there,
On De. 14th we learned that Anthony Swarzak signed with the Mets. Many of us would have been happy with a return for the eighth inning guy, and the contract with the Mets (2 years, $14 m) didn’t seem out of line.
Milwaukee finally added some depth in the starting pitching competition, but it wasn’t quite the big splash that many fans were hoping for. First, they took a flyer on former Brewer Yovani Gallardo to see if the righty has anything left to offer after two seasons of struggling in a major way. Yo could end up in the pen, or not on the roster, or in the rotation, depending on what he shows this spring.
On the 21st we learned of a more significant move when the news of the Crew’s signing of Jhoulys Chacin broke. Chacin will get a $1.5 mil signing bonus, $8 mil in 2018, and $6 mil in 2019. Barring injury, we should hope for 180+ innings of middle of the rotation pitching from Jhoulys. Again, not the top of the line, but it certainly bolsters the depth and competition for the top five. Who knows, maybe they aren’t done yet.
It has also been reported that loogy Boone Logan (the kid with two first names) has reached agreement with Milwaukee, but confirmation isn’t expected until after the new year starts.
And just today, it is reported that the Brewers are continuing a pursuit of Alex Cobb. Stay tuned! Maybe the Hot Stove League can start to heat things up and get rid of this bitter cold that has me staying inside way more than I should.
The 2017 season in 5000 words or less. I can’t wait to recap the championship season of 2018!