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Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #13: What happens after a disappointing season?

Answering this week’s questions for the weekly mailbag

St. Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball Mailbag!

After things seemingly hit rock bottom in Colorado, the Brewers bounced back with a doubleheader sweep of the Giants to pull to within 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot. With 20 of their final 26 games at home, the Brewers still have a chance to make up for their underwhelming play since the start of June.

Let’s get to this week’s questions.

wiguy94 asks:

If the season ended today, what is the Brewers biggest need going into the offseason?
Personally I’m stuck between big time impact bat and bullpen help. To me this is clearly our worst bullpen since the window opened in 2018.

There’s an argument that this bullpen is among the worst the Brewers have had in the Stearns era. With a month left to play, their Win Probability Added is the lowest since 2017. The relief unit has not been a model of reliability in the second half, either.

While the bullpen could use some improvement going into next season, I think an impact bat is still a greater priority. The underperformance from the run prevention unit is more to blame for the Brewers’ slide than the offense, but having a more potent lineup would give them more margin for error on the pitching side.

Furthermore, the Brewers have had far more success to this point with developing pitching than they have with hitting. Matt Bush and Peter Strzelecki have shown enough promise to be high-leverage weapons next season behind Devin Williams, and a healthy Jake Cousins can also factor into that mix. From there, they ought to be able to find a scrap heap reclamation project in the vein of Brad Boxberger and Hunter Strickland.

leche010 asks:

Given the way this season has been almost a complete disappointment, what are the odds of each of these for this offseason:
1. Counsell leaves, either due to firing or resigning
2. Run back the mostly same group with only “normal” roster turnover
3. “Significant” roster turnover including surprise non-tenders, FA signings, trades
4. Deliberate step back/rebuild- Which would be indicated by trading away major pieces (Burnes, Woodruff, etc.) for future pieces
I don’t really have a good way to quantify the “normal” and “significant” roster turnover, but I’m leaning toward a pure number of players turned over definition

I’ll eat my hat if the first option comes to fruition. Number four also seems unlikely because Mark Attanasio and David Stearns cited a desire to avoid rebuilding as part of the motivation behind the Josh Hader trade.

There will, however, be significant roster turnover. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, a large chunk of this roster appears unlikely to return due to non-tenders, declined club options, and expiring contracts. Next year’s roster will look quite different, but I would be surprised by any significant shakeups on the management side.

jorgejuliomachado asks:

What’s the deal with Jace playing at a MVP level on the road and hitting like Lorenzo Cain at home this year?

It’s probably just a random baseball oddity. Peterson’s splits are essentially the inverse of 2016 Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and I welcome any opportunity to bring up Home Kirk’s .953 OPS at Miller Park that year.

ThadBosley asks:

With A ball ending this week, what are the chances that the pitch clock is implemented next year? If it does go into effect, how big of change will it be for the hitters and pitchers? Earlier this year when Woodruff pitched in Appleton he was 25-30 seconds between pitches with no one base. The minor league pitch clock is 14 seconds in that situation..

The pitch clock is coming. Earlier today, Major League Baseball’s competition committee voted on and approved several rule changes for 2023. The pitch clock, limiting of defensive shifts, and larger bases will all be part of the game next season. Under the proposed rule, pitchers will have 15 seconds to deliver their next pitch, starting from the moment they receive the ball back from the catcher. With men on base, the timer increases to 20 seconds.

The quickest way to look at the clock’s potential impact on certain pitchers and hitters is Statcast’s new pitch tempo tracker. This tool measures the amount of time between releases of two pitches, so it’s not quite the same, but it still provides a handy frame of reference.

Devin Williams (24.5 seconds) and Corbin Burnes (21.3) will have to make the most dramatic adjustments. Brandon Woodruff (19.5) may have to tweak his routine on the mound as well.

nullact asks:

Corbin Burnes will not be a brewer in 2025. We will almost certainly hold on to him for 2023, but could be tradeable after next season. He will absolutely go to the free market to get the money he has earned.
Brandon Woodruff will probably not be a Brewer in 2025. We will almost certainly hold on to him for 2023, but could be tradeable after next season. While he appears to be a leader on the team, there’s no reason for him to sign a contract so team-friendly that Stearns would be happy with it.
Given that, what should we do, and what will we do?

Neither Burnes nor Woodruff will receive extensions. The Brewers already made their long-term commitments on the pitching side by locking up Freddy Peralta and Aaron Ashby.

I think it’s realistic to expect one of Burnes or Woodruff to be traded before hitting free agency. Stearns’ comments after the Hader deal about remaining competitive without having to rebuild hinted that similar moves could happen in the future. I won’t complain when it happens if the return makes the team better in the long run and subsequent moves result in a minimal hit to their playoff chances in the current or upcoming season. I would be stunned if both pitchers were dealt, though.

Of course, the outcome will depend on the shape of the roster and the organization as a whole in 2024. If the Brewers are serious about maintaining an open-ended contention window without spending big, they will have to make some controversial decisions down the line concerning their homegrown pitching talent.

metalmilitia844 asks:

Given Cain’s comments towards the FO as well as others after the Hader trade, what are the odds Stearns and the brewers part ways after this season? He’ll likely be gone after next year anyway so maybe with the 2nd half debacle of this season, the brewers might look to move on sooner than later. It’s pretty clear by now there is a divide between the players and the FO

Dubuquepj asks:

Does the team owner live in a bubble - or is aware of David Stearns’ poor leadership and decisions?

I paired these questions together because they both concern Stearns’ future and the pointed criticism of his leadership that has surfaced since the trade deadline.

When Eric Lauer accused management of failing to appropriately weigh the clubhouse impact of the Hader trade and address it with the players, it reflected poorly on Stearns and other higher-ups in the organization.

Cain’s comments added fuel to the fire, but the context surrounding them is worth considering. His remarks about disrupting clubhouse chemistry mirror Lauer’s thoughts and were not at all out of line. His belief that certain members of management did not show him respect as a veteran player and team leader is much more striking.

The Brewers’ five-year, $80-million commitment to Cain was the largest free agent deal in franchise history. When he became unplayable in the final year of that contract, the Brewers waited until he reached ten years of big-league service time before cutting him loose when they easily could have pulled the plug sooner. That’s pretty respectful treatment.

Furthermore, Cain said his friction with management goes back three years. If he’s including this season, then the trouble began in 2020. Cain opted out five games into the pandemic-shortened season and spent the rest of the year at home.

Cain doesn’t deserve criticism for making what he felt was the best choice for himself and his family during a strange year, but if his status in the clubhouse changed after a season away from his teammates, it should not have come as a surprise.

We’ll never know the whole story, but it’s hard to take Cain’s criticism of his treatment seriously with the information we have from an outside perspective. Lauer’s remarks hold more weight, in my opinion.

As for Stearns himself, he hasn’t done anything to force his way out of Milwaukee. Attanasio valued and trusted him enough to promote him to President of Baseball Operations. Part of the rationale was to block other clubs from interviewing Stearns for open General Manager positions, but it also granted him increased freedom.

Attanasio had long been regarded as a very hands-on owner, but his comments in the aftermath of the Hader trade (perceived by some as throwing his lead executive under the bus) indicated that Stearns has nearly free reign over transactions. Indeed, sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed that.

It would be foolish for Attanasio to demonstrate so much faith in Stearns—trust that he earned by establishing the most successful era of Brewers baseball in franchise history—only to question his decisions due to one rough season and terminate him.

That doesn’t mean Stearns is a lock to come back. The Brewers would be able to survive without him, and perhaps his shaky image with some fans makes this a more opportune time for a mutual split than after next season. However, I highly doubt there is serious discussion of moving on in direct response to his moves this season.

Secret Stadium Sauce asks:

Dear Abby,
My neighbor is a putz. Their garbage blows into my yard yet they don’t care, they never pick it up. One of their dogs barks constantly and it can be a bit distracting while working from home.
Should I reach out to discuss this with them or go nuclear with some kind of revenge?
I’ve thought about placing a flaming bag of dog poo on their porch and ringing the bell, that’s a classic. Another option is burning something vulgar into their lawn.
SE WI Irritated

The polite course of action would be to have a discussion about it first. If nothing changes, I think revenge is on the table.

Duckbroh asks:

Everyone always asks how the Brew Crew is doing, but nobody ever asks how Brew Crew Ball is doing.
How is good BCB doing? And how was your week, Jack? I hope everyone is finding success in their lives, whatever form that may take.

I was in attendance for yesterday’s doubleheader sweep, and I’ll be there again tonight, so I’d say it’s been a pretty good week. Thanks for asking.

Thanks for your questions this week! We’ll open up the mailbag for more questions on Wednesday.