Earlier this week, I took a stab at figuring out the roster that our Milwaukee Brewers would trot out for a possible Wild Card game. Today, I’m assuming an NL Central Division crown, or a Wild Card win. The first gives the Brewers home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs, and if the Indians can fight their way to the World Series (which could happen!), home field advantage for that, too. We have another team to root for!
This is much, much harder than building a Wild Card game roster. First off, you will need more than one starter (you think?). That reduces the position player allotment. Then, you are planning for a series, not just one game. The opponent can help make final spot decisions, but we can’t know that yet, so I’m not considering that.
Recency bias is important. First half stats seem unimportant. I more or less have used the last 30 days for the tough decisions, because a lot of the roster is set (barring any injuries over the weekend, knock on wood!)
Here we go:
C - Erik Kratz, Manny Pina,
IF - Jesus Aguilar, Orlando Arcia, Mike Moustakas, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, and Jonathan Schoop
OF - Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Curtis Granderson, Christian Yelich
SP - Jhoulys Chacin, Wade Miley
RP - Corbin Burnes, Xavier Cedeno, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria
I’ll address the pitching staff first. September baseball has been very kind to the make-up of the Brewers’ pitching staff. Short starts and great bullpen work have driven the run to a possible division title. So I’m trying to replicate that for the playoffs as much as possible. That means I’m only keeping three starters, and nine bullpen arms. There are off days (2) unless one team sweeps - and then a fourth starter doesn’t matter. Plus, nobody is going longer than four or five innings (unless they are lights out, and the team can deal with that).
The final spot starting candidates are Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Gio Gonzalez. Chase, over the past month, has a 3.06 ERA and a WHIP of 1.36. Davies hasn’t won any games, but his ERA is fine at 3.32, WHIP 1.11. Gio is at 2.66, 0.98. There are no bad choices here. I’m going with Gio, and that decision is partly based on getting another lefty to start because most teams are set up to face righties.
For the bullpen, I’m adding three. Brandon Woodruff gets a spot for long relief of the lefty starters, and for his 0.87 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. His hard stuff plays well out of the pen. Dan Jennings is out there partly because I’m pretty sure the Brewers will keep him and he seems to be back on track a bit lately. He’s the one guy on this pitching staff that scares me. His ERA over the last thirty is 3.38, but his WHIP is 1.88. The last spot has lots of candidates, including the passed over starters and Freddy Peralta and Junior Guerra. But I want a reliever, one that can go multiple innings, and Jordan Lyles hasn’t given up an earned run and has a WHIP of 0.60 for the last month. My eye test has his stuff looking really good, too - and since I’m making the roster, there he is.
I have only one spot left for a position player. Do you want Eric Thames or Domingo Santana? Thames has a left-handed bat, but that’s his only advantage, since he strikes out about half the time and doesn’t get hits. He can play first, and Sunday can’t. But Shaw seems to have taken over that late inning job, and Braun could play the cold corner in a pinch, too. Granderson is a lefty bat, making Thames a little redundant. Plus, Sunday has the best OPS on the team over the last 30 days, small sample size notwithstanding. He is at 1.323, folks, which edges out Yeli at 1.302.
I guess you could keep Thames and go down to 11 pitchers, but I’m not going to do that. The bullpen is where this series will be won.
Have at it.