Since the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Brewers have made up 3 games of the 3.5 game deficit they had behind the Chicago Cubs, and the Crew’s 5-2 mark this week has made the five game series sweep by the Pirates over the Brewers just before the break a distant memory.
TOP HITTING STORY: Two weeks in a row for Christian Yelich. Yeli seems to be getting better each week, and he slashed .536/.567/1.036 which gives him a nifty OPS of 1.602 for the week. In 30 plate appearances he had three doubles, a triple, and three homers, scored 8 times and drove in 10. His season OPS is up to .911, and he is now the NL’s leading hitter at .318.
Honorable Mention: Remember that day in February, when David Stearns added Yelich and Lorenzo Cain? It looked good, if puzzling, at the time. Not puzzling any longer - LoCain hit this week, too - .476/.560/.476, OPS 1.036 - so he didn’t have any extra base hits. Cain still leads the NL in defensive WAR and overall WAR.
TOP PITCHING STORY: Speaking of offseason additions, Jhoulys Chacin was a more-or-less under the radar signing as a starting pitcher. Stearns strikes again! Jhoulys has started 23 games and Milwaukee has won 16 of them. He started twice this week and won both, going 12.2 innings and only allowing five hits. Two of the hits were solo homers, but those were the only runs he allowed. He walked just one and struck out 16. He is the ace of the staff - no doubt about it.
Honorable Mention: Dan Jennings had one brief hiccup this season but has been a steady presence in the ‘pen. He leads the team with 50 appearances, and this past week he pitched in four of the seven games, but throwing just 2.2 innings with a 1.13 WHIP and no earned runs. He’s more than a LOOGY, and is a valuable member of a bullpen that looks primed for another dominant run. There’s Jennings, the addition of Joakim Soria in a trade with the White Sox this past week, the return of Matt Albers, the quiet dominance of Corbin Burnes — and then there’s the “A” bullpen.
IMHO: Speaking of additions, Mike Moustakas joined Milwaukee in time for last night’s win over the Giants after the Brewers sent Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez to the Royals in Stearns’ second trade deadline deal of the 2018 season.
The trade comes with it’s share of controversy. Maverick Phillips was a fan favorite (and one of my favorites), and Lopez has spent time in the bullpen the past few seasons, and possesses good ‘stuff’. But Phillips was a member of a large group of outfielders available to the Brewers, and had spent most of the season at AAA Colorado Springs even after Domingo Santana was sent down due to Sunday’s poor start at the plate. And Lopez was part of the AAA-Milwaukee Shuttle, working almost exclusively in non-leverage situations. Both could be good players in the future; I hope they are, they are both good guys. But their chances of making significant contributions as Brewers were considerably less than the chance that Moose can help get Milwaukee to a division crown.
Of course, the second controversy involves moving Travis Shaw to second base to make room for Moustakas at third. Consternation and wringing of hands has met this ‘out of the box’ approach, but not from me. Shaw will be fine. Will there be errors, or some hits due to his lack of range? Sure. But that was happening anyway, and the Milwaukee infield now could boast three thirty homer guys. That would be good, people. And Stearns and Counsell think it will work; IMHO they know what they are doing.
Moustakas is likely a rental just for this season. He has a mutual option for $15MM in 2019, and Mike might be tempted to accept that given the state of Free Agency last off season. But it seems unlikely that the Brewers would pay that for another season of Moose, especially if Brewer management think that Keston Hiura might just be ready to contribute as second next season, sending Shaw back to third base.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Not everyone agrees with me on the deal for Moustakas. Sleve McDichael presents one of the opposition’s points of view:
I don’t get this “biggest possible offensive upgrade” narrative.
Fangraphs projections almost unanimously agree that Dozier will have more WAR the rest of the way with projections for very similar wOBA and wRC+.
Plus Dozier has mashed the ball in the second half the last few years. No different this year, Dozier has a wRC+ of 112 this July while Moose’s is 90.
And what’s the kicker? We wouldn’t have to play Shaw out of position!
I generally trust Stearns and try not to get too worked up about trades, but I just don’t get this one.
I’m sure that Steve realizes that the Twins may have been unwilling to part with Dozier for this package.
Today’s finale in San Fran gives Milwaukee a chance at a series sweep and then it’s down to LA to face the Dodgers, up 1.5 games in the NL West and winner of three straight. And winners of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, which brought Moustakas to the Brewers instead.
Here’s hoping Sunday Sundries Week 19 has Milwaukee back on top in the NL Central!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference