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2023 Brewers midseason awards

Christian Yelich is the unanimous MVP among BCB contributors

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Aho

MVP: Christian Yelich

It’s been a while since this has been typed, but Christian Yelich is the clear MVP for the Brewers through the unofficial first half of the season. Yelich enters the break slashing .285/.379/.455 with 11 home runs. He is having his best year at the plate since breaking his kneecap on a foul ball in 2019. He has been on a tear the last month of the season, batting .343 with 21 RBI, along with a wRC+ of 174. He leads the team in WAR at 2.5 and currently rides an eight-game hitting streak while stationed at the top of the batting order. His .378 OBP ranks sixth among all MLB outfielders, and fourth in the National League. This resurgence from Yelich has provided a bright spot in a lackluster first half for the offense, and his production will be key for their playoff chances going into the second half.

Cy Young: Devin Williams

Devin Williams has established himself as one of the top closers in baseball since getting promoted to the full-time closer role following the trade of Josh Hader. The Brewer’s lone original All-Star has converted on 20 of 22 save opportunities while posting a 1.89 ERA. That ERA doesn’t demonstrate the dominance Williams has shown so far this season, as he was sitting sub 0.55 before giving up four runs in a blown save to the Twins. He has shown great durability, saving games on little rest so many times this season. With the way the rotation has been stretched and the bullpen has been tested, Williams remains a constant. Deserving of the All-Star selection, Williams has played as big of a role as anyone in keeping the Brewers in the hunt for the NL Central title.

Newcomer: Julio Teheran

Julio Teheran joined the Brewers in May as a potential fix to their depth issues. As the injuries mounted, they went to the two-time All-Star who hadn’t pitched in the MLB since 2021. His presence has been more than the Brewers could have asked for, as he has a 3.64 era in eight appearances so far. That ERA doesn’t do him justice, as he was at a 1.53 ERA before two rough outings against the Cubs and Mets. He has only given up more than two runs twice this season. His best start came against the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates when he allowed just one hit and two runs in a 5-4 win. On a roster full of newcomers, he shines above the rest as the most unlikely, but impactful, addition to the roster.

Team Grade: B

I rate the first half of the season as a B for the Milwaukee Brewers. By no means are they a team in the hunt for the World Series at this point. With that being said, I believe they are outperforming given the hand that has been dealt. They are a team with a lot of young talent that has seen the expected waves of success. Injuries have been a problem, but they have had guys step up to carry the load that they wouldn’t have had to otherwise. At the end of the day, while fans may be frustrated with the way the season has played out, they are still only one game out of first place in the division. Any team that is right in the thick of it for a playoff spot at the break should be happy, especially considering the major pieces that have been absent for most of the season.

Harrison Freuck

MVP: Christian Yelich

Yelich’s resurgence has been probably the biggest (positive) surprise for the Brewers this season, as he’s slashing .284/.378/.456 with 11 homers, 46 RBIs, and a 128 OPS+ heading into the All-Star break. He’s also played better in the field, helping the team get wins on both sides of the ball. If he can keep it up in the second half, he could be a major reason the Brewers sneak into the playoffs.

Cy Young: Devin Williams

Williams has done everything the Brewers could have hoped for in his first full season as the team’s closer. With a 1.89 ERA and a 1.3 WAR through the All-Star break, Williams has been nails on the back end of the bullpen. He’s struck out 45 batters in 33 13 innings and his 226 ERA+ puts him in the upper echelon of closers across the league.

Newcomer: Joel Payamps

While Payamps may not be the flashiest pitcher, he’s done his job since coming over from Oakland as part of the Contreras-Murphy trade. Through 42 13 innings out of the bullpen, he’s allowed just 11 runs (nine earned) for a 1.91 ERA. He’s also struck out 47 batters compared to eight walks. The cherry on top is that he’s seemingly only gotten better as the season has progressed - he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 12 appearances, dating back to June 8.

Team Grade: B-

I’m very tempted to give the Brewers a lower grade given how unbearable the offense has been at times, but they’ve managed to head into the All-Star break only one game back in the NL Central despite a myriad of injuries that have hit just about every major player on the team at some point or another. When you have to rely heavily on Julio Teheran and Colin Rea at the back end of the rotation, I’d argue you could be doing much worse. Milwaukee has put themselves in a position to return to the postseason in 2023, especially if the team can add another arm and/or bat at the deadline.

Jack Stern

MVP: Christian Yelich

Yelich is having his best season in years, both at the plate and in the field. Replacing his leg kick with a toe tap has helped the former MVP rediscover his timing at the plate and produced a 127 wRC+ this year that leads qualified Brewers hitters. Yelich has also improved his defense, posting +3 Outs Above Average in left field after a -5 mark last year. His 3.0 fWAR leads the team and ranks 17th in baseball among qualified players.

Cy Young: Corbin Burnes

Burnes gets the nod as the team’s top pitcher largely due to the state of the team’s rotation. Fellow starters Freddy Peralta, Wade Miley, Julio Teheran, Adrian Houser, and Colin Rea have all ranged from serviceable to below average. The right-hander’s performance has been much closer to league-average than outstanding, but he leads the team in innings and has been arguably the best performer in an injury-ravaged rotation.

Newcomer: William Contreras

Contreras’ offense has taken a step back from its All-Star level in 2022 with the Braves, but he has joined the list of backstops who have turned their defense around in Milwaukee. Contreras rates second among all catchers in FanGraphs’ Defense metric and seventh in Baseball Prospectus’ Catching Defense Added metric. He has still been an above-average bat this year (111 wRC+) while living up to expectations as a lefty masher (160 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers).

Team Grade: C+

On one hand, one could credit the Brewers for finishing the first half seven wins above .500 despite dealing with plenty of injuries. On the other hand, one could argue that the Brewers have played below expectations. Their -13 run differential hints that they have been fortunate to post a respectable record. Their offense ranks 26th in baseball by wRC+, and their pitching has been closer to average than a discernable strength. Key players like Willy Adames, Rowdy Tellez, Jesse Winker, and Freddy Peralta have dramatically underperformed. The Brewers will need to improve their quality of play—both individually and as a team—as they chase a playoff spot in the second half.

Jason Paczkowski

MVP: Christian Yelich

Though he’s not the superstar that he once was, Yelich has stepped into a solid role on the Brewers offense. He’s improved month by month, starting with an 83 wRC+ in March/April and then improving to 127 in May, 149 in June, and is at 198 so far in July. He’s already surpassed his fWAR in each of the last three seasons, though it’s not on track to surpass his fWAR in his best seasons of 2018 and 2019. Yelich may not get back to those levels again, but if he can maintain what he’s done so far, it will help this offense immensely.

Cy Young: Devin Williams

Devin Williams has continued to dominate in his first full season as the Brewers closer. In 34 appearances this season, he’s allowed no runs in 31 of those apperances. He has 20 saves so far this season and a 12.2 K/9. He’s been versatile enough to pitch longer innings when needed as well. A reliever as strong as Williams can help make a nine-inning game feel more secure. He may not pitch as much as the starters, but he’ll be there to make sure the Brewers win whenever he pitches.

Newcomer: Joey Wiemer

At the start of the season, the Brewers were looking at openings in the outfield. A few prospects started the season with the team, and one of those prospects was Joey Wiemer. Though Wiemer has had his share of rookie struggles at the plate, he’s stepped up to fill in an important role on the team. The batting average is low but he’s shown some good power, with 12 home runs so far this season. What’s been more important has been his play on defense. He has a DRS of 5 so far in the outfield and a UZR/150 of 18.4. Wiemer has earned the job in the outfield for now, and with a bit of improvement at the plate, he can be a strong contributor for years to come.

Team Grade: B-

With the team competing for a playoff spot, the first half of the season has to be seen as at least a partial success. Though the offense is among the worst in the National League, the pitching staff has helped keep the team in the running. The offense has definitely had its struggles, getting to the point of signing free agents and starting them in the middle of the lineup the next day. Meanwhile, the pitching staff has seen its share of struggles, but they are starting to stabilize. The starting pitchers are doing well enough to keep the team in most games, and the bullpen has developed a core of five relievers that has begun to dominate. It’s tough to see the team remaining in contention without some reinforcements, but those could come from returns from the IL. They still have a good chance to make the playoffs, even if it ends up being a short run.

Herschel Winkelman

MVP: Christian Yelich

The most valuable player for the Brewers this season has been Christian Yelich, and his resurgence has propelled Milwaukee’s success as of late. Yelich has been red hot since the start of May and is looking more like his former MVP self. With his leadership, ability to hit, speed on the basepaths, and resurrection of solid fielding in left, Yelich has proven himself to be a crucial part of this team.

Cy Young: Devin Williams

Devin Williams has been magnificent at the back end of the bullpen for Milwaukee and has earned his All-Star designation this season. With a 1.89 ERA and 20 saves, Williams has been a frightening sight for opposing teams. If the Brewers are able to stay in contention for the division lead down the stretch, Devin Williams will be closing out any close games. His 45 strikeouts in 33 13 innings show that opposing hitters are still having a tough time when he is on the mound, and the Brewers will need that to continue if they wish to have success down the stretch.

Newcomer: Owen Miller

Owen Miller has been one of the most slept-on trade additions of the season. Miller has blossomed into a dependable hitter for Milwaukee and his versatility in the field has made him a favorite of Craig Counsell’s. He has been consistent at the top of the batting order and has been the cleanup hitter as of late. Hitting .288 this season with four home runs and 24 RBIs shows his ability to get on base and produce with an occasional long ball.

Team Grade: B

I think Milwaukee has done a solid job this season, especially with the use of youth like Brice Turang and Joey Wiemer. The additions of Brian Anderson, Owen Miller, and William Contreras have helped massively on both the offensive and defensive sides, and veterans like Yelich and Willy Adames have been the foundations of the offense throughout the year. The Brewers could use an extra arm or two in the bullpen and would do even better if they acquire a bat at the deadline. With a competitive team still fighting for a playoff spot, Milwaukee has just about met expectations this season.