It’s July 21st, 2017, and the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place. They are in the middle of a 5-game losing streak, though, and have seen their lead in the NL Central dwindle from 5.5 games to just 1 game going into tonight’s matchup with Philadelphia. Regardless of their recent slide, the club remains active in trade talks regarding several players. So let’s see if there’s any freaking out in this week’s questions:
Is this the end?
Ha, I don’t think so just yet. Yeah, the club has dropped five games in a row and just got swept out of Pittsburgh. But every one of those games was close; on the pitching side, Brewer arms allowed only 15 runs during the 4-game set and on the hitting side, the club collected 38 hits and had plenty of traffic on the base paths. Craig Counsell put it best after yesterday’s game:
"We didn't play poorly, we just didn't get that next hit. They got the next hit. I'll say it again: Just keep getting men on base. You are worried when you are not getting anybody on base. That's when it's quiet and that's when nothing is happening. I am confident in our offense. We are going to score runs. I think that is a place we have been very consistent all year, and I think that will pick up for sure."
The long baseball season ebbs and flows by nature; the Brewers weren’t going to stay hot forever, nor were the Cubs going to stay cold. That’s the nice thing about building a big lead - even with their difficulties in the last week, Milwaukee is still in first place. I’ll start freaking out when they fall out of first place by more than a series - that is, when they are 3-4 games back of the division lead.
Tonight is a must-win game though.
Any dates in mind for the BCB meet-up?
Not specifically yet, no. I’m planning to meet up with my buddy who works in the Brewers’ ticket office hopefully within the next week so that we can start hashing out how something like this would work and what dates may be available. I imagine it’ll be sometime in later August at the earliest, or maybe into September. I’ll make sure to let everyone know with a post when I’ve got the details figured out.
I know he was a late round guy, but huge strike out numbers so far in the minors. Lefty and only 22. Can’t find anything about his stuff though outside of a brief synopsis from the day he was drafted. Anything deeper?
Torres-Costa has been one of my low-key favorite sleeper arms in the Brewers’ system for the last few years. A 35th-rounder back in 2015 from Hawaii (where he underwent Tommy John surgery), Torres-Costa has posted outstanding peripheral numbers against every level of competition he’s faced to this point in the minor leagues. He began this season in high-A Carolina but was recently promoted to AA Biloxi after posting a 3.77 ERA/3.28 DRA (73 DRA-) across 45.1 innings with a 66:15 K/BB ratio. So far with the Shuckers he’s thrown 5 innings, allowed one run, and struck out 8 batters while walking 2.
As far as his “stuff” goes, here’s his report from 2080 Baseball’s preseason organizational review of the Brewers:
The medium-framed, athletic lefty sits in the lower 90s with his fastball and relies on a short cutter and circle changeup as his primary secondary options. The changeup has a chance to be plus and the deception he gets from his 3/4s arm slot and slight crossfire delivery have helped him to miss bats at a pretty good clip as a pro (11.29 SO/9 in 2016). The walks are not great for a reliever (3.81 BB/9 in 2016) and he does give up some hard contact (55 hits in 59 innings pitched and a .347 BABIP), but he keeps the ball on the ground. With improved fastball command, he has a chance to be a quality lefty specialist down the road.
Why is Keon Broxton still getting starts?
Keon has certainly become a divisive player here in the community. He’s been scuffling lately, having hit just .068 during the month of July. When a player is struggling that mightily, it’s easy to gloss over the fact that his wRC+ of 84 this season isn’t all the dissimilar than that of Orlando Arcia (86) or Hernan Perez (88). He’s still on pace to hit more than 20 homers and steal more than 20 bases. Even though the metrics are down on his defense in 2017 (which may be a bit overstated when looking closer at the inside edge fielding data), Keon made a couple of highlight-reel type catches in the latest series in Pittsburgh and has proven he can be a valuable defender in center field. You know what you’re getting with Keon for the most part: he’s a useful, albeit very streaky and sometimes frustrating, baseball player at the major league.
If not Broxton, the alternatives that Milwaukee has are tantalizing but unproven. Both Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson are well-thought of as prospects - especially Brinson - and have performed excellently at the AAA level this year. Both have had their struggles in brief big league sample sizes this season, though, and neither have any sort of significant track record that you could point to and say “I know they can at least do this.” Are Brinson and Phillips probably more a part of the future plans than Keon? Certainly. But putting either in a situation where they not only need to get acclimated to playing everyday at the big league level, but do it in the middle of a high-pressure pennant race, may not be the best course of action for their development or for a team that needs every win it can get.
What's your favorite non-Mountain Dew yellow citrus flavored beverage drink?
Sundrop, which is also known as God’s nectar. I was first introduced to the beverage back in 2010, when I was on vacation in Shawano with my then-girlfriend and her family. We went to some restaurant and I, like any 18 year old, asked for a Mountain Dew to drink. The waitress replied “we don’t serve that, but we do have Sundrop.” Reluctantly, I agreed to try it and my life was forever changed. Here’s a picture of me taking my first sip of mankind’s greatest invention:
I’ve also greatly enjoyed both Surge and Vault at various points in my life, and given our recent propensity to shop at Aldi, have become fond of Mountain Frost ($2.39 for a 12-pack!).
Uncle Father Oscar asks:
Which of the players that the Brewers have been connected with recently would you want them to trade for the most?
I’ve mentioned this before on Twitter - if the Brewers are going to go out and spend significant prospect capital on any of the players that they’ve been connected to this summer, I’d like it to be for Sonny Gray. His 3.66 ERA (87 ERA-) doesn’t accurately depict just how good he’s been this year. Through 91.0 innings this year, his 3.15 DRA (67 DRA-) and 3.37 FIP (79 FIP-) are reminiscent of his dominant years of 2014-15. His 22.7% strikeout rate is his best since his debut season of 2013, his swinging strike rate of 11.8% is a career-best mark, he’s allowing a below-average rate of hard contact at 28.8%, and his fastball velocity and walk rate are both in the range of his career norms. I think he’d be a much more significant upgrade to the rotation than Justin Verlander or JA Happ and that adding Gray would be more impactful than adding a bullpen arm. How nice would a playoff rotation of Gray, Nelson, and Anderson look come October? It sure is fun to think about.
I know there are concerns about his durability given his small frame and injury issues last season, but there’s no perfect arms on the market this year and I like Gray’s upside even better than Jose Quintana’s. And if the Brewers fall out of it this year or don’t compete next season or the year after, the control that Gray comes with (he’s not a free agent until after 2019) means that there’s a chance he could be flipped again at some point to recoup some of the prospects that would need to be given up to acquire him. Gray’s connection to pitching coach Derek Johnson (who was his college coach at Vanderbilt and has been called a father-figure to Gray, who lost his dad at age 14) makes the idea of bringing him to Milwaukee even more compelling. He’s the best player available, and it could be a major shot in the arm for this team if Stearns and Co. were to go out and get him.
Thanks for the great questions this week, everyone! Hopefully we are still talking about our beloved local nine as a first-place club with a new addition or two the next time we do this.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus