Welcome to the final edition for this year’s Cactus Cup champion Milwaukee Brewers - even thought there’s still a game left. Next week will be Week 1 of the Championship Season, and although the next 162 games may be anti-climactic after such a whirlwind spring, we will plow ahead.
First - let’s pick our Arizona MVP (you have until Thursday morning to vote):
Who is the Brewers’ Cactus League MVP?
This poll is closed
Jhoulys Chacin (3-1, 1,84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, Cup clinching win)
Josh Hader (0.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 16 K’s in 8.2 innings)
Lorenzo Cain (slash .450/.511/.575, OPS 1.086)
Ji-Man Choi (slash .385/.510/744, OPS 1.253, 3 HR)
Keston Hiura (slash .419/.438/.548, OPS .986)
Christian Yelich (slash .356/.491/.556, OPS 1.047, 2 HR)
If you don’t like the choices feel free to give your selections in comments...even though you’ll be wrong.
We will review team performances instead of individual today.
TOP HITTING STORY
The Cactus League is considerably more hitterish than the Grapefruit League. The Cactus League has totaled 2505 runs going into Sunday’s final contests, with 606 homeruns. The Grapefruiters managed 2138 runs and 464 homers. This is probably the result of the moist, heavy air in Florida compared with the dry air in Arizona. The Indians led the majors with 57 long balls, and the Florida based Nationals were last with 18.
This isn’t necessarily important, except to note that offensive production by the Cream City Nine is unlikely to be duplicated once they start playing games in the frozen tundra of Milwaukee, which is at least slightly less frozen inside Miller Park. The corollary to this theory is that pitching numbers will be better starting next Thursday. Of course, the effects of the weather change will be mitigated by hitters facing consistently better pitching and pitchers facing consistently better hitters.
The Brewers averaged the fourth-most runs per game in the Cactus League, and they accomplished that by hitting the ninth-most home runs, drawing the most walks, and posting the fourth-best batting average. Even more amazing, they only had the sixth-most strikeouts of the fifteen teams. Their OPS was the fourth-best in the west, propelled by a second-best on-base percentage.
These numbers indicate that the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain have made a difference in how the Brewers’ lineup approaches at bats, and that the efforts of hitting coaches Darnell Coles and Jason Lane to take a more disciplined approach at the plate also have contributed. Of course, with about half of the at-bats going to Milwaukee Minor Leaguers it is safe to assume that the future Brewers will be even better at that approach.
Perhaps Maryvale Baseball Park is a tougher Cactus League park to hit in than the rest of the league’s stadiums, because...
TOP PITCHING STORY:
Milwaukee’s pitching staff gave up the fewest home runs of any Cactus League team, allowing 30. (The Indians gave up the most, at 49. so perhaps Goodyear Ballpark is a bit of a launching pad.) The Brewers also had the best team ERA in the league at 4.04, quite a bit better than the second best ERA of 4.36 for the Cubs. Run prevention includes defense, though, so I’m including a simple runs allowed per game result too: the Brewers also led that category at 4.75 runs per contest. The Indians were second best at 4.80 - I’m sensing a theme here. The Brewers’ defense was middle of the pack in MLB in errors, fielding percentage, and unearned runs allowed. This is the most important area to improve on if the team is to contend.
Peripheral numbers for the Brewers pitchers aren’t quite as kind. They ranked seventh in most walks allowed, seventh in most strikeouts registered, fifth in both BAA (.261) and WHIP (1.39). However, if they can come close to these rankings and overall performance in the National League this season they should contend right up until the end of the season again, and hopefully beyond.
IMHO: Spring training results are by and large poor predictors of regular season player production and team results. But I’ve decided that I’ll use one factoid from this year’s Cactus Cup campaign to guess which teams will be competitive: run differential.
Teams I think will compete:
- Indians +1.95 (oh my, did they underachieve this spring...but they could win 110 games!)
- Brewers +.95
- Dodgers +.54
Teams I think are facing a long season:
I expect the Cubs will compete too, of course, but they were at +.34. I’d say the Angels season could be a major disappointment, but again, it is only Spring Training.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Yesterday’s clinching win over the Athletics brought a mostly green comments section, of course, and AKBrewfan captured the celebratory mood and hope for the season in one quick comment:
David Stearns is a genius.
No one can dispute this. He brought us the championship.
For those who are unaware, Brew Crew Ball has long had a not-so-serious thing for the Cactus Cup. Or maybe it is less not-so-serious than I thought. Anyways, winning is always more fun than losing, no matter what the stakes.
A game Sunday against the White Sox and two exhibitions (Monday and Tuesday) against the Astros in Houston are all that remain before Thursday’s opener against the Padres in San Diego. A good start would really help keep the momentum from this spring going. I’m missing the home opener (by choice) but will be there for the “Real Fans” opener on Tuesday against the Cardinals. I think I’ll get to see ChAce going for hopefully his second win.
Statistics courtesy of MLB.com