This week's edition of the poll had easily the highest rate of participation for the season, perhaps driven by the sudden realization that maybe the Brewers are for real. The community (N = 133) somehow found more room to expand its approval of David Stearns, and gave Craig Counsell his first big bump in quite a while. Maybe more tellingly, we've broken through some barriers in terms of win expectations, with the first votes of the season being cast in the 91 or more wins range, and the mean playoff expectation jumping to 46%. The midseason grades show us where some of these good feelings originate, as the team overall earns a B in comparison to preseason expectations, with fewer individual players getting Ds and Fs as got them in the last couple years.
1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Craig Counsell is doing as the manager of the Brewers?
Wk 15 Wk 14 Wk 13 Wk 12 Wk 11 Wk 10 Wk 9 Wk 8 Strongly approve 30% 17% 15% 16% 15% 14% 22% 19% Approve 65% 71% 68% 68% 74% 81% 72% 75% Disapprove 1% 5% 7% 4% 0% 0% 2% 0% Strongly disapprove 1% 2% 3% 4% 2% 0% 2% 2% Undecided 3% 6% 8% 9% 9% 5% 2% 5%
2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job David Stearns is doing as the general manager of the Brewers?
Wk 15 Wk 14 Wk 13 Wk 12 Wk 11 Wk 10 Wk 9 Wk 8 Strongly approve 72% 60% 54% 36% 35% 35% 44% 51% Approve 26% 40% 45% 64% 65% 65% 54% 49% Disapprove 1% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% Strongly disapprove 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% Undecided 1% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0% 2% 0%
3. How many games do you expect the Brewers to win in the 2017 regular season?
Wk 15 Wk 14 Wk 13 Wk 12 Wk 11 Wk 10 Wk 9 Wk 8 65 or less 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 66 to 70 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 2% 71 to 75 4% 5% 5% 5% 13% 12% 14% 14% 76 to 80 6% 34% 41% 46% 54% 47% 62% 48% 81 to 85 47% 45% 49% 46% 28% 40% 20% 32% 85 to 90 41% 17% 5% 2% 4% 2% 4% 5% 91 or more 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
4. What percent chance do you give the Brewers of making the postseason this year?
Wk 15 Wk 14 Wk 13 Wk 12 Wk 11 Wk 10 Wk 9 Wk 8 Less than 5 1% 8% 5% 7% 9% 12% 10% 8% 5 to 9 2% 6% 9% 7% 20% 21% 16% 10% 10 to 20 13% 28% 42% 52% 57% 44% 50% 49% More than 20 85% 58% 43% 34% 15% 23% 24% 33% ---- Mean 46% 28% 23% 19% 15% 16% 19% 20%
After coding the grades A through F numerically as 2 through -2 (so a C was zero, representing the player being right on expectations), the grand mean for the entire team was 0.26. By that measure, the team is a bit better than we expected. However, it doesn't make much sense to treat Yadiel Rivera's summer camp trip to Milwaukee the same as Jimmy Nelson's 452 batters faced. If we weight the average by plate appearances for position players and batters faced for pitchers, the weighted grand mean comes out to 0.54. Pretty decent! That's essentially a low B, since I assigned letter grades to each player based on the numerical average, putting cut-points at the halves (e.g., 1.5 and above is an A, 0.5 to 1.5 is a B, etc.). If the mode (that's the most frequently occurring grade, for those whose stats awareness begins and ends at the 2% shelf of the milk case) was higher or lower than the grade based on the mean, they got a plus or a minus. And now, the grades!
A: Jesús Aguilar, Chase Anderson, Corey Knebel, Jimmy Nelson (most positive contribution to weighted mean), Manny Piña, Travis Shaw (highest overall mean at 1.89), Eric Sogard
Having two starting pitchers in this group is pretty nice. Also nice having four position players who were total question marks before the season performing this well. In particular, Aguilar and Sogard have helped protect the team's ability to score runs from damage by injuries and slumps. If these hitters were only playing to expectations, there's almost no way the Brewers would be in first place.
B+: Orlando Arcia
Arcia probably pulled that plus with his solid June, and it's easy to think he would've been at a C or lower before that. He is third on the team in fWAR over the last 30 days, and if he's really developed a bat to go along with his magnificent glove his B level for 2018 may be All-Star worthy.
B: Jacob Barnes, Matt Garza, Josh Hader, Jared Hughes, Hernán Pérez, Domingo Santana, Brent Suter, Eric Thames, Stephen Vogt
Including Arcia, fully a quarter of the roster is in the B range, which really demonstrates the breadth of solid performances that the Brewers have gotten in the first half. Among the relievers in this group, the highest ERA belongs to Barnes at 3.63, and in addition to bullpen work, Brent Suter has put up 0.5 fWAR and a 2.65 ERA in three starts. Josh Hader has walked a lot of guys in his handful of appearances, but he's also only given up one run, and has clearly demonstrated the potential we've been hearing about. Matt Garza is having a solid bounce-back season, all but guaranteeing his option will be picked up, and based on what he's done in recent year that was certainly not expected.
Among the B position players, Domingo Santana lead the team in plate appearances, has remained healthy, and has taken significant steps forward at the plate; unfortunately, his defense is still, enh... *makes wobbly hand motion*. We were told Stephen Vogt couldn't hit anymore when he arrived, and then he did, so that's been nice. And while the bat is not at 1927 levels for the Latin Babe Ruth, his consistency and defensive versatility have been huge assets for the Brewers, to the tune of 0.9 fWAR in just under 300 plate appearances.
Of course, the big name here is Eric Thames, who would've broken the grading system had we done this at the end of April. The Man With the Golden Elbow Guard has been just OK since then, and in fact was out-hit by Aguilar in both May and June, before returning to form with a 1.250 OPS so far in July. Aguilar is officially a rookie, but in some ways Thames is as well, and it seems like Counsell is still figuring how best to handle the two of them.
All the C+ players in the organization are in the minors.
C: Jett Bandy, Michael Blazek, Ryan Braun, Lewis Brinson, Keon Broxton, Oliver Drake, Paolo Espino, David Goforth, Jorge López, Brett Phillips, Yadiel Rivera, Rob Scahill, Carlos Torres
It appears we've settled in with Ryan Braun; high-quality, kind-of-low-quantity production is what we expect from him now. With his DL stints, he'll miss more time in 2017 than he has since his injury and suspension in 2013, but it won't be tremendously more than the 30 games he was likely to miss if "healthy" all year. I guess that's OK. #RyanBraunForever
If we tracked individual player grades all year, I imagine Keon Broxton's chart would look like the Alps, but perhaps near the edge where the spiky peaks begin to fade into foothills. He's had stretches where he looks incredible, then looks like a Rule 5 acquisition for two weeks, then a stunning catch, then a route drawn by that kid from The Family Circus. Would be great if he could figure it out.
Most of the rest of this group, as usual, is the cup of coffee guys. The median number of plate appearances/batters faced is 82 (Espino). The one notable exception is Jett Bandy, who actually started out the season hitting a bit better than Piña, before completely collapsing at the plate, and also never being able to out-throw the pineapple cannon.
D+: Taylor Jungmann, Kirk Nieuwenhuis
It's weird that Taylor Jungmann made the team out of spring training, right? Seems weird.
D: Zach Davies, Nick Franklin, Junior Guerra, Jhan Mariñez, Jonathan Villar
I thought Junior Guerra was a mirage last year, so for me the biggest disappointment on the team has been Jonathan Villar. He's shown some signs of getting it back together, but I suspect we may be in for a bumpier version of the Carlos Gomez ride for the next couple years. Just try to keep the whole picture in mind.
D-: Tommy Milone
OK. Thanks for eating those innings, man.
F: Neftalí Feliz (lowest overall mean at -1.77), Wily Peralta (most negative contribution to weighted mean)
Feliz is the exception that proves the rule that Stearns can do no wrong. Where would the Brewers be with Greg Holland? Maybe 53 wins? I don't know. And then Wily. Oof. A few years ago I was all set to make a buddy comedy about Wily and Tyler Thornburg called Pitchers Be Crazy, starring Tracy Morgan and Jon Glaser. Starting to think it may never happen.
Of the Brewers' 2015 pre-break roster, nine players appeared for the club in 2017's first half; 20 carried over from 2016. Their grade trends are presented below. As you can see, we have been done with Wily for quite a while, while a number of other players have ricocheted from floor to ceiling or vice versa. David Goforth has provided us with the great service of maintaining the platonic ideal of anonymous mediocrity.