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Milwaukee Brewers decade in review: top-5 seasons by position players

Remembering the best seasons of the last ten years

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re celebrating the last ten years of Milwaukee Brewers excellence. The decade has given us some of the best players in franchise history. We want to take a look back at the five best seasons for position players.

To make this list as objective as possible, we’re using the average WAR from Baseball Reference (bWAR), FanGraphs (fWAR), and Baseball Prospectus (WARP), listed as Aggregate WAR. The highest WARs determined the top five seasons for a Milwaukee Brewers positions player over the last decade.

5. Carlos Gomez, 2013 — 590 PA || .284/.338/.506 || 24 HR || 40 SB || 128 wRC+ || 6.67 Aggregate WAR

Carlos Gomez’s 2013 was something special. With Ryan Braun suspended as a result of the Biogenesis scandal, Gomez rose up and took over as the superstar the team needed in the outfield. His 24 home runs lead the team and his 40 SB was eighth in all of baseball.

As good as Gomez was at the plate, he was better in the field. He had 32 defensive runs saved, the fourth best for any MLB outfielder between 2010 and 2019. Gomez also had a 17.2 UZR, 15th best for qualified outfielders this decade. His defense was good enough to earn the Brewers’ first Gold Glove since 1982.

Between his defense and offense, the numbers for Gomez were great. Because bWAR loves defense, his 7.8 bWAR was the best of the decade and helped give him the fifth best spot on this list.

It also had my personal favorite play of the decade:

4. Christian Yelich, 2018 — 651 PA || .326/.402/.598 || 36 HR || 22 SB || 166 wRC+ || 6.67 Aggregate WAR

In 2018, Yelich had the third-best offensive season in team history. That dominant performance led to Yelich winning the fifth MVP in Brewers history. The stud outfielder quickly established himself as one of the best players in the NL.

Unfortunately for these rankings, MVPs don’t count. Yeli’s 2018 had the third-best fWAR and bWAR, but the worst WARP. That brought his aggregate WAR down quite a bit. Still, this is only behind some of the best seasons in franchise history.

Yeli’s shining moment of the year was his second cycle of the year, becoming one of just a few players to have two cycles in a season:

3. Ryan Braun, 2011 — 629 PA || .332/.397/.597 || 33 HR || 33 SB || 171 wRC+ || 6.8 Aggregate WAR

Ryan Braun’s 2011 season helped start off the decade on one the franchise’s highest notes. As the most dominant hitter in baseball that season, Braun guided the Brewers to their first ever NL Championship Series. While the team couldn’t win, his performance would earn him Milwaukee’s first MVP in over two decades.

Based on wRC+, 2011 was the second-best offensive season in franchise history. His WAR could have been even higher if Braun was a quality defender. He’s not, but he still locked up the second highest bWAR in the decade, behind only Carlos Gomez in 2013.

Braun’s signature moment came in his Division clinching three-run homer:

2. Christian Yelich, 2019 — 580 PA || .329/.429/.671 || 44 HR || 30 SB || 174 wRC+ || 7.13 Aggregate WAR

As good as Yelich’s 2018 was, his performance in 2019 was better in almost every way. Had it not been for a broken knee cap on an odd foul ball, there’s little chance Yelich wouldn’t have won a second consecutive MVP award.

In 2019, Yelich had the best wRC+, the best slugging percentage, second best on-base percentage, and best ISO in franchise history. If it hadn’t been for Yeli’s less than stellar defense, it’s all but certain this would be the best season of the decade and likely the second-best season in franchise history.

Here’s a highlight reel for Yeli’s 2019, because it deserves it:

  1. Jonathan Lucroy, 2014 — 655 PA || .301/.373/.465 || 13 HR || 4 SB || 133 wRC+ || 7.53 Aggregate WAR

For as good as you thought Yasmani Grandal was in 2019, Jonathan Lucroy was better in 2014. In 2013, Lucroy established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball, 2014 made him one of the best players in baseball.

While Lucroy’s numbers don’t pop off the page like Yeli’s 2019, he was dominant on both sides of the game. That led to his insane 8.2 fWAR, second highest in franchise history and the second best for a catcher in the decade, behind only 2012 Buster Posey.

Luc’s 133 wRC+ was well above average for a catcher, but where he dominated was with his glove. The Brewers catcher was responsible for 34 framing runs above average and 24 defensive runs saved. His time from 2011-2014 was amazing, but 2014 stands out as truly superlative.

He also led baseball with 53 doubles, tying the franchise record:

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus