A week to go in the 2018 Championship Season, and if the Milwaukee Brewers don’t make the playoffs in 2018 we will certainly have the Pittsburgh Pirates to thank. With one game left in the season series, the Bucs hold a 12-6 record against the Crew. Against the rest of baseball, the Milwaukee Nine is 82-55.
So, despite outscoring their opponents 26-12 the Brewers managed just a 3-3 week. Drat. For the month, Milwaukee has bested their foes 88-52 but is just 12-7. Of course, getting shut out three times in their last ten games hasn’t helped.
Milwaukee trails the Cubs by 2.5 games in the NL Central with seven left to play (the Cubs have eight games remaining). The chances of that happening are remote, but not impossible. The Brewers lead the Cards by 2 games, and they will face each other starting Monday in a crucial three game set in St. Louis. The Rockies are 3.5 back, so if the Brewers chances of overtaking the Cubs are remote, the Rockies chances of catching the Crew are, er, remoter. But why doesn’t it feel that way?
TOP HITTING STORY: Surprise! Christian Yelich once again carried the team on his back this week. I’m totally unbiased (unBaezed?) but I can’t see him not getting the MVP if the Brewers reach the post season. Last week saw a .435/.480/.826 slash, with 2 doubles to go with a triple and a homer. He scored 5 times, drove in 4. In the totally meaningless batting average chase, Yeli leads old friend Scooter Gennett .320 to .316 with a week to go. Why do I care? It meant something in my yoot, and old habits are hard to break. He leads the league in OPS, too, which is cool (.959-.945 with the D’Backs Paul Goldschmidt second). What would a trophy for the OPS title look like?
Honorable Mention: I have occasionally mentioned (I define ‘occasionally’ differently than you) that David Stearns is a really good GM. His acquisition of Erik Kratz early this season, when Jett Bandy was struggling mightily, seemed a minor move, but the seemingly-at-the-end-of-the-road, 38 year old Kratz has produced so well offensively and defensively that lately he has been getting the majority of the starts over Manny Pina. And Pina has been hitting (and defending) at an acceptable level. For the week, Kratz was at .357/.400/.643. That’s an OPS of 1.043. It’s hard to imagine him back again next season, but then again it was hard to imagine him on the team, ever. Congrats, Erik! Wouldn’t it be nice to go out with a World Series appearance?
TOP PITCHING STORY: Do we now trust Corey Knebel as much as we did the first half of last season? I do. Whatever he and/or Derek Johnson corrected or tweaked, or whatever a hypnotist told him, it has worked wonders. Last week Corey pitched in three games, going 2.2 innings without a hit allowed and striking out 5. He did walk 2, but that must have been bad umpiring. In 10 September appearances he has worked 10.1 innings, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks, no runs, and striking out 18. That’s a batting average against of .065 and a WHIP (walks and hits per inning) of .039. Great Googly Moogly!
Honorable Mention: Whew. Joakim Soria isn’t awful anymore. Craig Counsell has continued to use the ex-White Sock (hmm, that doesn’t look right) despite his recent struggles, and this past week he also appeared in three games with no runs allowed. He went three innings and allowed two hits and a walk. I’m still very nervous when he comes in, but hey, I’m very nervous pretty much all the time when watching the Brewers right now, so I won’t hold him responsible for that.
IMHO: Speaking of September results, the Brewer pitching staff has turned a horrible August into a sublime September. (I know, this is supposed to be a weekly review, but something something poetic license something.) For the month Milwaukee leads the majors with the lowest ERA (2.52) and lowest WHIP (1.06), having only allowed 11 homers, the fewest in the game.
I mean, the team had the 27th (out of 30) best ERA (5.33) in August, and gave up the third most homers (44) in the month. That turnaround is rather stunning. Why? What happened?
My initial thought was that expanded rosters happened. With a gazillion pitchers in the pen, Counsell has had a very short leash on his starting pitchers. And yeah, that’s true to a degree. In August, starters covered 59% of the innings; in September they are down to 53%. But that’s not really significant, is it?
And the starters have been BETTER in September; their ERA has dropped from 4.88 for August to 3.26 this month. Wow. That’s a great improvement! But you know what? The pen has fallen from 5.99 last month to 1.69 for Back-To-School. Have I used Great Googly Moogly yet? Yes? I guess WOW will have to do.
Why has the pen been so much better? I haven’t a clue, and DJ has ignored my (nonexistent) requests for an explanation. Baseball is weird, I guess.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK: I was speculating earlier this week on what a one-game Wild Card roster might look like, and surprisingly some folks had their own suggestions on whom to keep. I was waffling on whether to keep Tyler Saladino or Eric Thames as the 25th guy on the roster (remember, you only need one starting pitcher), as both have been, well, kinda ineffective for the past month or so. Brew Crew Buster had an alternative suggestion:
There is a greater chance of needing a third catcher than pitcher number 12.
Thirteenth inning and Kratz on second and the brewers already having used Pina. You may want to bring in Broxton to run.
While Buster was recommending that I remove a reliever, I think I’ll keep that intact and let the Sheriff of Nottingham take that last spot from Tyler and Eric.
So here we are, one week to go. The last game at PNC Park this season (thank goodness), then off to Busch Stadium for three more nice, relaxing games. The Crew finishes at home with three interleague games against the Tigers, and I’m already getting angry that such a bad team might have the temerity to derail the Cream City Nine’s playoff chances. So it goes.
If you wake up next Sunday eagerly looking for Sundries, you’ll be disappointed. It will come out Sunday night or Monday morning, depending on my mood. No excuses, Crew. It’s in your hands!
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference