New week, same Milwaukee Brewers. They entered last week .5 games ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs and currently sit two games ahead in first as of Monday. (Thank you, Cincinnati Reds)
But that 1.5 game jump does not have much to do with the state of the Brewers’ play. Inconsistent starting pitching and inconsistent offense are all tied into a knot by one of the best bullpens in baseball. That has been and continues to be the Brewers’ M.O. It is who they are as we sit a little less then halfway through the season.
Also on brand, my takes being right for all the wrong reasons.
Last week, I dubbed Eric Thames as not expendable. Mainly due to the inevitable regression of Jesus Aguilar and Milwaukee’s constant need for depth as injuries to the likes of Ryan Braun have been all too common.
Neither of the reasons have proven true. Aguilar had a monster week bombing three homeruns (one a walkoff to beat St. Louis on Friday), driving in eight runs, and also scoring four himself. He is not due for a regression as we are possibly getting a glimpse of who the 27 year-old really is. Who knew he just needed the playing time?
This should doom Thames and his playing time. But it will not, as the Brewers still need him. Left fielder Domingo Santana has been sent down to Triple-A as his power has completely dropped off this season. That leaves a need for a left-handed outfield back. Enter Eric Thames. So, he is still indispensable, just not for the reasons I believed.
Chase Anderson also showed how the inconsistent pitching staff has stumbled into helping the Brewers have the fifth-best team ERA in the MLB.
Against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, Anderson dealt five red-hot innings, allowing only two hits, giving up only one run and striking out nine. A far cry from his 5.1 innings against Philadelphia two weeks ago where he gave up six earned runs.
So hopefully I fair better this week.
The Milwaukee Brewers have the best fanbase
Milwaukee has a rich baseball history. Whether it be of the Milwaukee Braves and the early years of Hank Aaron, the voice of baseball in Bob Uecker, fans storming the County Stadium field after the Brewers clinched the 1982 American League Pennant, the fact Milwaukee threw a losers parade for that 1982 team upon arrival home from losing the World Series, or the 2008 and 2011 playoff runs.
Despite what a lot of outside viewers may think, Milwaukee is a baseball town. That has lead to steady Miller Park attendance, even in years the team was well out of contention. Nothing beats the tailgates, nothing beats the Milwaukee baseball experience for those who grew up Brewers fans.
In fact, despite a overall decline in MLB attendance for the 2018 season (over 1.8 million less fans to this point in the season compared to 2017) the Brewers have actually posted an increase.
In 2017, Miller Park averaged 28,753 fans per game, but this year it has jumped up to an average of 33,323 fans per game.
It is the second largest increase in the MLB, second only to the World Series Champion Houston Astros. Only two other teams have seen increases at all: the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees.
Despite being one of the smallest markets in all of baseball, they consistently rank in the top-ten of any attendance statistics.
Oddly this year however, the fans have not turned out for the All-Star vote. The Brewers have been the best team in the National League thus far in the season, but the only players cracking the All-Star updates so far are Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, and they are far behind others at their position.
Fans need to show more support for their players if they are to earn a title like this.
It’s time to look elsewhere for third base production
One of the players that fans could have assumed would be in the All-Star conversation would have been Travis Shaw.
The breakout star of 2017, who hit over 30 homeruns and close to 100 RBIs, was due to follow that up with a huge 2018 season. It just hasn’t happened.
Almost mid-way through 2018 we find Shaw hitting for a .242/.339/.480 line. He is also now suffering from a nagging sore wrist, which may be playing into those poor numbers.
But, dig deeper and you still find one of the more valuable players in the National League.
Firs,t we can just look at his WAR, which sits at 2.3 and is fourteenth in the NL, sitting right around other NL stars Brandon Crawford, Javier Baez and *sigh* Scooter Gennett. His wRC+ is also 118, only one lower than the 119 he posted last year. Shaw is also suffering from a bit of bad luck.
A .254 batting average for balls in play leads us to believe some hard hit balls are going straight to defenders or he is batting into the shift. Sooner or later those balls are going to get through and that average is going to go up.
Even with his below-average averages and bad luck, he is still producing. Shaw is second on the team with 47 RBIs behind only Jesus Aguilar’s 50 RBIs.
He also has 19 doubles and 14 homeruns. A below-average Shaw is still an above-average third baseman.
Lukewarm take: Junior Guerra is the Ace we didn’t know we needed
Guerra is pitching much better than his 3-5 record would care to admit (pitcher W-L don’t matter as much as they used to).
In 14 starts for Guerra and 76.2 innings of work the right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA, put down 74 batters on strikes, given up less than one HR/9 and has a 1.3 WAR.
He has almost doubled his strikeout rate from 2017 and brought his walk rate down by four points. Guerra has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise inconsistent starting rotation.
The consistent cherry on top: out of 14 starts, he has given up more then three runs in only two.