Jeremy Jeffress was the Milwaukee Brewers’ first pick in the first MLB Draft I truly payed attention to. I didn’t follow the draft like I do now; there wasn’t a studied obsession of every possible pick, in-depth analysis of the farm and what the team needed to be more well-rounded. No, it was just a kid watching an afternoon of draft, just starting to become obsessed with everything Brewers.
When the Crew took a high schooler who could potentially hit triple digits in a day when maybe one or two players regularly hit the 100s, I became obsessed. I remember speaking at length to my friends about this thrilling righty who was going to light the world on fire. That excitement faded as Jeffress faced difficulty in the Brewers’ farm. Some suspensions, lack of success and a few years in the farm was enough to wear me down then.
When JJ made his Brewers debut in 2010, the obsession flooded back. I got to watch some fairly dominant innings in a year when the Brewers didn’t have a lot else going on. Then, we all know what happened, Jeffress was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Zack Greinke. As interested as I was in Jeffress, it was hard for anyone to hate that trade.
Jeffress would then wander the Majors, working with the Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, but I remember being pretty stoked when I found out he was coming home in mid-April 2014. I was even happier when he became dominant as a reliever. I’ve always loved relievers, but now here was one whose backstory I knew and could buy into.
Jeffress would continue to dominate over the next few seasons, but more importantly, he would become a member of the team who fans genuinely loved. Jeffress excelled on the mound during his tenure with Milwaukee. Over his 154.2 innings across three seasons, he kept a minute ERA of 2.29.
Add on the things JJ did off the field and it was easy to like the player and the person. The relationship Jeffress had with left hander Will Smith became hysterical and adoring. His affection for his adorable dog only compounded that. His presence became a highlight for the team.
In 2016, David Stearns sent JJ alongside Jonathan Lucroy to the Texas Rangers for a wealth of prospects who would help the team in other ways down the road. However, Jeffress would struggle during his time with the Rangers, both on the mound and personally. Stearns sent Tayler Scott to Texas for JJ’s safe return in 2017 and he came back to thrive once more.
In 2018, we got the most dominant Jeffress yet. JJ became part of a two-headed bullpen monster alongside Josh Hader. Across 76.2 innings, Jeffress put up a minuscule 1.29 ERA. He also became an All-Star for the first time in his career. Add in a new type of Jeffress attitude on the mound and things were great for Milwaukee. He was a major part of Milwaukee’s rise to division dominance.
2018 Award for K Strut of the Year— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 17, 2018
Jeremy Jeffress pic.twitter.com/6PAd0qGEmu
For the first time in his career, Jeffress couldn’t dominate on the mound in Milwaukee this year. The Brewers made a tough decision to part with him. If history repeats itself, the team would re-sign JJ this off season to a minor league deal, but for the foreseeable future he is gone.
Over his seven years in Milwaukee, JJ threw 304.2 innings, good for a 2.66 ERA. He struck out 292 during that time. His career ERA ranks sixth among Brewers players with at least 100 innings. He’s also in the top 20 for games finished and saves in a Milwaukee uniform. JJ ranks 46th overall for total strikeouts.
For me, Jeffress is a huge part of my fandom. His draft would help me get interested in the minors and the draft, leading to my current obsessions with the minor leagues. He’s been a major part of several significant Brewers memories, like the Greinke trade, tragic 2014 season, Lucroy trade, or the run in 2018.
Jeffress is a part of Milwaukee for life. His contributions to the Crew are undeniable. Add on to that his contributions the charitable support for the area and the business investment he made in the town. If you look at Jeffress’ career, it’s hard to deny that Milwaukee brought out the best in him. And I think it’s fair to say, he made Milwaukee a better city, to the best of his ability.
Let’s celebrate JJ and everything he means to us as Wisconsinites and Brewers fans. What’s your favorite Jeffress memory? A social media video? A strikeout? A pre-game moment? Let’s hear it!
Statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference