Today begins the 2019 Championship Season, and according to most projections your Milwaukee Brewers should be in the thick of playoff contention once again throughout the regular season as they look to defend their division title. No one knows yet exactly how the season will shake out, but the Brew Crew Ball staff has made the following fearless forecasts regarding the Cream City Nine for this season:
David Gibson: Slugging Optimism
I suffer from an ailment called “Optimistic Brewers Bias,” or OBB, as you will see from my prediction. Twenty-six MLB players slugged over .500 in 2018. The only Brewers to do so were Christian Yelich and Jesus Aguilar. For my bold prediction for 2019: five different Brewers’ players will SLG .500 or better. The lineup offers protection throughout, so there will be a plethora of pitches to hit as opposing hurlers will need to think twice before pitching around Brewer hitters. The amount of pitcher stress induced by this lineup will cause pitchers to make more mistakes than they otherwise would. We know Yelich and Aguilar have done it. Mike Moustakas did it in 2017. Ryan Braun had such a season as recently as 2016. Travis Shaw just feels like he is about to take another step, and we just know Yasmani Grandal is going to rake in Miller Park. The Brewers haven’t had a lineup like this since the early 1980s. In 1982, four players had a SLG of .500 or above: Yount at .578, Cooper at .528, Thomas with .508, and Don Money posting a .531 in 313 plate appearances. This lineup is superior to that one, so as someone suffering with OBB, I can’t help but think that five Brewers doing it in 2019 is a no-brainer and quite possibly not a bold enough prediction.
Tim Muma: Top 7 regulars finish with an OPS of .800 or better
In the 119 seasons of the modern era (since 1900), only 9 teams have had 7 qualified hitters finish with an OPS of .800 or better. In the NL, the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates stand alone. The Brewers’ franchise record is 6 players, when the 1978 team pulled it off in the AL; meanwhile, while the best NL season came in 2010 with 5 players.
The 2019 Brewers have a legitimate shot at tying the all-time record, as 4 players bested an .800 OPS last year in Milwaukee: Christian Yelich, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, and Lorenzo Cain. Then add Yasmani Grandal who posted an .815 OPS with the Dodgers (you’d expect his numbers to surge playing half his games in Miller Park). Throw in Mike Moustakas who had an .835 OPS in 2017, finished with a .774 OPS last season (combined), and gets full year in Milwaukee, too. And finally, Ryan Braun ended 2018 with a .782 OPS and has had an OPS of at least .823 each year from 2015-2017. Scary deep lineup with history in its sights.
-JP-: The leader in games played at each position will record at least 100 hits
This is a bit harder to hit than expected. The last time the Brewers managed to have each of their primary position players get 100 hits was 2011, which was a year that the Brewers made the playoffs. Going back further, when the Brewers made it in 2008, 7 of the 8 primary players had 100+ hits, and the one who didn’t was at 91. If all eight primary starters get to 100 hits in 2019, it’s very likely that the Brewers are in the playoffs because they would have had some good consistency in that lineup throughout the year. The one starter that may struggle to get there is Orlando Arcia, who was at 82 hits in 2019. Even in a playoff season, only five Brewers got to 100 hits in 2018. Going into 2019, this lineup looks to be much more stable. It’s always hard to say who might struggle across a season, but if the lineup can be stable, their chances this season go way up.
Bonus Prediction: Craig Counsell wins 15 challenges. In 2018, Counsell was 7-for-34 on challenges for a league bottom 20% success rate on challenges. For reference, second worst was Scott Servais at 13-for-37 (34%). Maybe not that bold, because it’s going to be hard to be worse than that. Over his career, Counsell is 58 for 149 in challenges with a 38.9% success rate. At a minimum, Counsell won’t be at the bottom of the league in challenges again this season.
Brad Ford: Yelich re-cycles, again
My bold prediction for the 2019 season is that Christian Yelich will hit his third cycle in three seasons. The cycle is one of the rarest achievements in baseball, having two in a career is next to unheard of. Last year, Yelich famously had two in a season. With his phenomenal bat and ability, I think he manages to get a third cycle in there, becoming the fifth player in MLB history to have three.
Kyle Lesniewski: Ryan Braun makes the All-Star team
There has been plenty of digital ink spilled regarding Ryan Braun’s hard-luck 2018 season and the swing changes that he’s looking to implement during this upcoming campaign. Braun hopes to join the launch angle revolution and, thanks to some minor changes to his bat path, put more of the balls he’s scorching over the fence rather than into a fielder’s mitt. One can’t ever take Spring Training stats too seriously, but Braun’s Cactus League line indicates that he’s well on his way to locking in with his renovated swing — .318/.400/.455 with a homer in 25 plate appearances. The Hebrew Hammer looks like a strong rebound candidate. If he stays healthy enough to accrue 450+ plate appearances, it wouldn’t be surprising to me if he puts up something like a .280/.350/.500 slash line with 20+ home runs, numbers on par with his 2015-2016 seasons.
Jaymes L: The Brewers will finish in third place and miss the playoffs
Not a fun prediction, but maybe a grimly realistic one. The NL Central will be a bloodbath all season long, and for the Brewers, that starts with a brutal schedule in April. It’s a long year, but with everyone beating up on each other, it may be difficult for any NL Central team to rack up enough wins to secure a wildcard spot. In the West, Colorado remains a wildcard threat, and in the East, the Bryce Harper-less Nationals are still good enough to possibly compete for a playoff spot, the Mets’ pitching will keep them in the playoff periphery, and Atlanta’s offense could power a playoff push as all three chase Philadelphia. The Brewers were able to ride their bullpen all year last season. If that’s not possible this year and the team’s young starters prove to be inconsistent, it may be too much to overcome.