I’d like to say I did a good job of predicting the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster for the NLDS series against the Colorado Rockies, but since you could look it up you’d know I was lying, what’s the point. I was way off, especially on the pitching staff.
My problem was that I was too conventional. Craig Counsell, David Stearns, and the analytics staff put together a group of out-getters that really did get the job done. In fact, the only pitcher on the Milwaukee staff that gave up any runs was their best reliever, Jeremy Jeffress. This time, I’ve got to think outside the box.
First off, looking at the Los Angeles Dodgers (Milwaukee’s opponent in the NLCS) gives us some clues as to what needs to be different vs the NLDS roster. Unlike the Rox, LA was better against right-handed pitching. In fact, they had the highest OPS in the National League against righties (.796). Conversely, they were eighth against lefties (.733). The Dodgers hit 168 homers off of righties (they led the league with 235 total). The Brewers, meanwhile, were second in the NL with 166 home runs off of right handed pitchers, and second for the season with 218.
The Dodgers were a better hitting club during the second half, OPSing .803 as a team. This will be a tougher group for the Milwaukee staff, and LA is coming off a series against the Atlanta Braves where they walked 27 times in 4 games. (Even so, the Brewers’ OPS of .807 edged LA’s .803). Dem Bums hit 8 homers in the four games, and 7 of them were against righties.
David Freese was a trade deadline acquisition for LA and has been great add for the Dodgers. He has hit lefties very well (.464/.545/.786, OPS 1.331) since coming to the City of Angels. Before he left the Pirates, though, he slashed .284/.344/.413 for an OPS of .757 against southpaws. Maybe the Crew can figure out how he was pitched to prior to the deal...unless it was a change in diet.
Another factor in my roster is the makeup of the seven-game series. It breaks out to two games in Milwaukee, an off day, then three in LA, an off day, then two back at Miller Park. Ignoring my desire for the Cream City Nine to just win four straight, that three game stretch in LA could mean a taxed bullpen. I’m adding a pitcher and taking away a position player.
So with the above factors in mind, here we go:
- Catchers: Erik Kratz, Manny Pina
- Infielders: Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Hernan Perez, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw
- Outfielders: Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, Lorenzo Cain, Curtis Granderson, Domingo Santana, Christian Yelich
- Starting Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin, Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley
- Long Relievers: Junior Guerra, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff
- Other Relievers: Corbin Burnes, Xavier Cedeno, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria
Missing the cut: Jonathan Schoop, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies
Schoop is the odd man out. He was used only once as a pinch hitter in the NLDS, and didn’t start against a lefty in that series. With the need for more pitchers, somebody had to go. Hernan Perez is more versatile and has hit better.
Xavier Cedeno makes the cut as the added reliever, and I bypassed Dan Jennings. I’d like to figure out a way to get Jennings on the roster, too, but I can’t see taking another position player off the roster. Besides, I’d rather have any of the other relievers facing the Dodgers in a crucial situation (aren’t they all crucial?) than Jennings. So, unless the Brewers can get an exemption and have a 26 man roster, Lieutenant Dan is done.
There will be a need for a bullpen game with only three starters on the roster. The first game makes sense, but maybe it’s game three, the first in LA. Maybe the Crew starts with Miley or Gonzalez in game one, knowing that they will only go four or five innings at the most. Handling Freese could be the key to the series. As a side note, Yasiel Puig was much worse against lefties this season, OPSing .921 against right handed hurlers, and just .628 against left.
Make no mistake - the Dodgers can hit anybody. They have a deep and formidable group of offensive players. Their starting pitching is very good. The ‘pen is good, too, but that would be where the Brewers have a slight advantage. Milwaukee will need to hit better in this series; it’s hard to believe that they can even come close to matching the pitching performance from the Rockies’ series, but that might be necessary for them to move on to their first World Series since 1982.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference