It was a season of ups and downs for the young Milwaukee Brewers. From leading the NL Central up until the All-Star break all the way to pushing the Rockies to their limits for the final Wild Card spot. They battled hard against teams like the Cubs going 9-10 against them this season, which includes a series sweep on the road in Chicago. They battled the Cardinals extremely well going 11-8 against them this season. They were able to bounce back from tough losses and didn’t go on too many long losing streaks. As fans we should be very proud of this team for how close they came to making the post season and the steps they have taken forward as an organization.
Back in March I predicted that Milwaukee would be a much better team in 2017, but never did I expect them to be in the race up until September 30th. I projected an 83-79 record along with a third place finish behind Chicago and St. Louis. Even for a guy who was in the small majority of people who thought the Brewers would be competitive this season, they still blew my expectations away with an 86-76 record.
The pitching was outstanding. Milwaukee pitchers combined for a team ERA of 4.02, good for fifth in the National League. Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson were anchors of the rotation setting career lows in ERA and career highs in strikeouts. They also kept the ball in the park allowing low homerun totals which is something they had struggled with in past seasons. Jimmy Nelson is turning out to be the ace we hoped he would become and unfortunately had his season cut short by injury. Anderson also struggled with injury this season missing about two months. Zach Davies had a very solid season as well setting a career high in wins and innings pitched. He bounced back after an awful start to his season as well and managed to bring his ERA down below 4. Brent Suter filled in very nicely when he was called upon as a spot starter. He is looking to be a fulltime starter in the 2018 season. The Brewers have a very young and good rotation that is looking to improve off of an excellent 2017 campaign next season.
After a dreadful start, the bullpen turned things around posting a 3.85 ERA which was good for fifth in the NL. After releasing Neftali Feliz, who turned out to be a complete disaster, things started going much better. Corey Knebel became an All-Star making 39 saves in 45 opportunities this season. He posted an ERA of 1.78 and worked 76 innings for Milwaukee. He struck out 126 guys in those 76 innings, which comes out to be 14.92 K/9 innings. By the way, he is only 25. He throws one of the nastiest pitches in the majors in what is called a “Knucklecurve”. Josh Hader came in from AAA and became an excellent 7th/8th inning guy. He posted a 1.93 ERA and worked 46.2 innings for the Brewers. He struck out 67 guys in those innings. He also is very young and only 23 years old. These two have electric stuff and are under Brewer control for quite a long time. Jared Hughes, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeremy Jeffress were all solid acquisitions for the Brewers who did a solid job out of the bullpen as well. Without the turnaround of the bullpen, Milwaukee would not have been able to stay in the hunt for as long as they did.
The Brewers have always been known for their power numbers. They finished 9th in the Majors and 2nd in the NL behind the Mets. Travis Shaw was the best run producer for the team with his 31 homers and 101 RBI’s. In my opinion, Travis Shaw is looking to be a cornerstone third baseman for the Brewers as their best player offensively. Domingo Santana was their second best with 30 homers and 85 RBI’s. Much like Shaw, Santana is a consistent and solid bat in the lineup. He was their best outfielder by far this season outside of what we saw from Brett Phillips in September. Orlando Arcia was excellent in his first full season in the big leagues and was one of the best defensive run savers at shortstop in the majors. He is going to be a star in this league for years to come. Manny Pina was one of the biggest surprises of many on the team as he led the team in batting average. The catching position was a big concern for the Brewers heading into this season after losing Lucroy and Maldonado via trades.
The depth of Milwaukee’s bench was a huge plus to them this season. Jesus Aguilar for example, was a bench player who hit 16 homers and drove in 52 runs. Hernan Perez is the best utility man in baseball, I like to compare him to Martin Prado. He can play any position on the field and do well in that position. His bat is no slouch either as he hit 14 homers and drove in 51 runs while hitting at a .259 clip. Eric Sogard was a great guy to have at the top of the lineup and was the Brewers only guy who they could rely on to consistently put the ball in play. Brett Phillips shined in September becoming one of Milwaukee’s most consistent bats and showed off his great defensive ability. Keon Broxton was a very frustrating player to me, but still did come up with some clutch plays on defense and some clutch hits on offense. There were really no big holes in the Milwaukee lineup this season. When one guy was out, the other would step in and fill the void.
The acquisitions GM David Sterns made to keep the Brewers in the hunt all paid their dividens. Anthony Swarzak and Jeremy Jeffress were excellent and helped the Brewers bullpen become on of the best in the NL. Neil Walker was excellent at 1B and 2B as a left handed batter. Stephen Vogt turned his season around becoming a solid power threat for the Brewers after Jett Bandy wasn’t cutting it behind the plate. Lots of the team’s success comes from these moves and they should not go overlooked.
The major issues with this team caused Milwaukee to just miss the playoffs. Despite hitting for power they only scored 732 runs which was only 10th in the NL. They led the majors in strikeouts also with 1569. They had some trouble getting runs in with men in scoring position. For instance, Eric Thames hit 31 bombs, but only drove in 63 runs. A majority of his RBI’s came from the longball. The Milwaukee defense was also worst in the NL committing 15 Errors. An issue that is fairly typical for teams as young as Milwaukee, but definitely needs some tightening up over the offseason.
As fans we can take away many positive things from this season. The pitching, the power hitting, and the youth of the team. This year was a huge step in the right direction for the young Milwaukee Brewers. Building around young, key pieces is going to lead to even more success next season. I am more than proud of the team for as often as they were frustrating to watch sometimes. They kept it interesting until the very last game of the season and it truly was a fun season to watch Brewers baseball.