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What went right for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2020

Long-term signings, playoffs again, and dominate young pitching

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The excitement around the Milwaukee Brewers over the past few seasons has been as high as it ever has been. Multiple winning season with exciting players and innovative management brought a confidence in this team not seen since the early 1980s. While the Brewers failed to finish above .500 in 2020, this year for the Brewers still had a number of things go right.

Christian Yelich and Freddy Peralta sign long-term

Prior to the start of the 2020 season, Milwaukee’s front office locked up two of its players long term. With two years remaining on Christian Yelich’s team-friendly contract, Mark Attanasio opened up his wallet. The Brewers signed Yelich to a nine-year extension through the 2028 season with a mutual option for 2029. The deal will pay the 2018 MVP a total of $215M and possibly make Yelich a Brewer for the rest of his career.

Not to be ignored, Freddy Peralta also signed a 5-year, $15.5M contract that could keep him in Milwaukee through 2026. Still very young at 24 years old, Peralta has talent level that could see him be one of the better pitchers in baseball. He still has a lot to figure out, but the chances are pretty good that he does.

Milwaukee made the playoffs for a franchise-record third season in a row

Obviously the new playoff system helped Milwaukee achieve their third playoff appearance in a row for the first time in the franchise’s history. In some ways, the achievement seems a bit less valid based on the new playoff system. Nonetheless they did it.

After Milwaukee’s loss to St. Louis on the final day of the season, the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies had the opportunity to bypass the Brewers and get the #8 seed in the playoffs. Luck was on Milwaukee’s side as both teams lost, and the Brew Crew went on to face the Dodgers in the opening round of the playoffs.

Young pitching emerged at an elite level

There are a group of young pitchers in Milwaukee right now that should have this fanbase very excited. Brandon Woodruff continued to pitch like a top-of-the-rotation arm in 2020. Josh Hader was still a highly effective reliever. Freddy Peralta continued his growth in a positive way. Yet two pitchers emerged to absolutely dominate this sport: Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams.

Going into his final start, Corbin Burnes was being discussed for the National League Cy Young Award. While an injury to his oblique derailed that, Burnes has emerged as a legitimate top-of-the-rotation talent. Across 59.2 innings, Burnes pitched to a 2.11 ERA and 2.04 FIP with a 13.27 K/9.

Then there is that eye test thing that old guys like me sometimes talk about. When Burnes was on the mound, very good hitters were over matched. Major league hitters adjust to major league pitchers. No matter the hitter, however, a pitcher with ace stuff is difficult if virtually impossible to adjust to. Burnes showed that consistently this year.

This guy has always had ace stuff. In 2020, he started to put it all together. Pairing him with Brandon Woodruff means that Milwaukee should have a 1-2 punch in the starting rotation as good as any in baseball for a long time.

Milwaukee had one of the better bullpens in baseball in 2020. Josh Hader, Freddy Peralta, Eric Yardley, and others contributed to get big outs this season. Yet there was no one in all of baseball better than Devin Williams was.

Williams coupled his already 96-99 mph fastball with a changeup that is unparalleled in the game today. The results were pure dominance. Devin Williams posted an ERA of 0.33 and a FIP of 0.86. He struck out almost 18 per 9. He was quite simply the best reliever in baseball on a team that has arguably the best reliever in baseball over the previous two seasons. With Williams leading the way along with Hader, the Brewers’ bullpen should be a force for the foreseeable future.

While the 2020 season was not as exciting or as strong as 2018 or 2019, the Brewers still had a lot of positives to hang their collective hats on. The Milwaukee Brewers are looking like one of those teams that is always in the playoff conversation. They signed their best player long term and a young pitcher that could turn out to be special. They also had two more young pitchers emerge to dominate the sport. Those positives should translate well going into the 2021 season. It would not be a surprise to see the Brew Crew back in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season in 2021 as a result.