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State of the Brewers: The optimist’s viewpoint

Yelich awakens, pitching trending well, and Craig Counsell’s adaptation skills

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

It would have been nice if the Milwaukee Brewers hit better as a team than they have. In their first thirteen games, Brewers hitters have a team slash line of .216/.315/.349 while the team’s wRC+ is a paltry 88.

While there have been strong pitching performances, several Brewer pitchers have struggled mightily. It would just be nice if things could come together, especially since the Brewers are about to hit a ten-game stretch where they play the Twins six times and the Cubs four. With all of that acknowledged, there are signs that the Milwaukee Brewers will be just fine for the rest of 2020.

Christian Yelich is waking up

Christian Yelich is still slashing .149/.286/.468. After getting the evening off a few nights ago, Yelich has been hitting with authority. In the four games since, Yelich has four hits. Three of those hits are home runs and the other is a triple.

Just as when he was struggling, the sample size is small. Yet it seems that Christian Yelich is closing in on his normal self.

Upward trend in pitching performance

There have been some awful pitching performances by Brewers’ pitchers this season. At the same time, there are some pitchers who are having really good years.

When it comes to the starting rotation, there is a lot to be excited about. Brandon Woodruff looks like one of the best pitchers in MLB at times and his stats show it (2.53 ERA and 2.74 xFIP). Adrian Houser has been stellar as he’s kept hitters off-balance with a wicked two-seamer and nasty slider. Corbin Burnes demonstrates ace-like stuff in all of his appearances, and he looks like he might be on the brink of big things. Josh Lindblom is holding his own against major league hitters and would look good as a back-of-the-rotation piece.

In the bullpen, Josh Hader has yet to be scored upon. The same is true about Eric Yardley. Devin Williams looks to be on the precipice of earning an important job in late innings. David Phelps is strong in a set up role. When these guys pitch, there is confidence going towards the end of the game.

With the rest of the staff, the results have been mediocre to dreadful. Yet there is reason to be hopeful with few of these pitchers. Freddy Peralta comes first to mind. In two 3-inning appearances, Peralta has shown what he has always shown; extreme variation in performance. In one outing, he dominated. In the next, he struggled. This is the story of Freddy Peralta’s career to this point. Can he become consistent? It is the million dollar question. If he can then look out.

Corey Knebel is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and his fastball velocity is down a few ticks. It will probably have to come back if we are ever to see the elite version of Corey Knebel again. But there is a good likelihood that it will come back along with his command. It just takes time. Expectations that Knebel was going to come back to his old form immediately were nonsense. There is a good chance that he does come back to some semblance of his old self. He will have to build himself back up physically and mentally to do it though.

Brent Suter was really good down the stretch in 2019. He struggled in his first couple of outings in 2020. In his past couple of appearance, he’s given up nothing. If that is what he is moving forward, the bullpen will have one more piece that carves up the competition.

Craig Counsell is the best manager in baseball

This is a strong statement. There are a lot of great managers out there. Yet when it comes to winning baseball games with the resources that he has, it is hard to argue that there is anyone better than him. What makes him great is the ability to adapt to the realities of a given night as well as to the nuances of a given season.

As long as Counsell is the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, I expect them to be competitive and in playoff contention more often than not. Over thirteen games, the Brewers are one game below .500. With CC as manager, we know September is just around the corner. Craig Counsell and the month of September means “winning.”

Even with September on the horizon, August is right now. The next ten games in August are going to be big as the Brewers face two first place teams ten times. Most of those games are on the road. I look for the Brewers to “bite down hard” and give the Twins and Cubs everything they want and more at this early stage. They will do it because Craig Counsell understands the urgency of this stage of the season, and his team will too. If the Brewers leave the month of August in contention, watch out.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs