The Milwaukee Brewers have made the playoffs twice since 1982. They came close last year, but just missed out. Trying to improve their chances in 2018, the Brewers have been one of the more active teams in the offseason, aggressively looking to upgrade the team after the squad surprised everyone by winning 86-games last season.
The rebuild came to a head much quicker than the experts expected last year as the pitching clicked and GM David Sterns willingly added pieces down the stretch. With further additions this offseason, the Brewers are looking to challenge the Cubs—and Cardinals—for the NL Central title. Chicago, of course, is still ahead of Milwaukee on paper, but additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain close the gap if the pitching holds up.
2017 Record: 86-76
2017 Moneyline Record: +18.01 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 68-87-7
Current Odds To Win NL: +1402
Current Odds To Win NL Central: +465
Regular Season Win Total: 84
Sterns showed he wasn’t a conventional guy last year when he cast aside Chris Carter in favor of Korean star, and former failed MLB prospect, Eric Thames.
While Thames slowed in the second half, he took the Majors by storm early in the year and proved much more valuable at first than Carter who was released midseason by the Yankees.
Thames ended the season as one of three Brewers with at least 30 home runs. Thames hit just .247, but belted 31 bombs and produced a .359 OBP to drive an impressive 125 OPS+. Other big surprise seasons came from Domingo Santana and Travis Shaw. Santana had a break out age 24 seasons with a 126 OPS+ and a .278/.371/.505 slash line. Shaw hit 31 homers and 101 RBIs while posted a .862 OPS of his own.
To join these bats, the Brewers added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain to the mix. With the two new outfielders, the Brewers’ outfield is now stacked with Santana, Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips.
Phillips goes back to the minors and Broxton provides speed off the bench, but the team still has four outfielders for three spots. Braun’s been taking reps at first base, but that just expands the problem. With Thames, that’s now five players for four spots.
Really, that’s a good problem to have. Craig Counsell now has the flexibility to move players around and ensure his team remains well rested for the stretch run. He’s also protected against injuries.
There’s some depth for the Brewers in the infield, too, with Eric Sogard and Hernan Perez having good seasons and Jonathan Villar and Orlando Arcia holding down the middle positions. Villar is coming off a rough year, but he’s no longer needed to hit atop the order. He can thrive again at the bottom with Yelich and Cain setting the table the for the big boppers in the middle.
The Brewers’ offense was mediocre as a whole last year and should be much more complete in 2018.
As for the pitching staff, Milwaukee will need a bit of luck. The unit was fifth in the NL in team ERA last year at 4.00. The team battled through a few injuries to get there, but—in general—the team took a massive step forward on the mound.
Jimmy Nelson is out the first couple months after pitching to a 3.49 ERA In 29 games. Zach Davies is now dealing with a strained oblique. It shouldn’t be a serious injury, but just one more question for the righty who somehow miraculously managed to win 17 games. He had a good 3.90 ERA, but his FIP was higher and he only struck out 124 in 191.1 innings. Davies also pitched to surprising splits which are also concerning.
The rest of the rotation features a fully healthy Chase Anderson who was amazing in 25 starts last year and Junior Guerra along with two new additions in Jhoulys Chacin who threw well in San Diego and likely Wade Miley who struggled in Baltimore last year.
The starting rotation looks questionable, but it’s mostly the same one that yielded the fifth best starter ERA in the NL. Davies’ health and Nelson’s return will be huge. The team is also still in on the Alex Cobb sweepstakes. That could help the team a lot, too.
In the bullpen, the Brewers now have an established closer in Corey Knebel who took over the role early in in 2017 and didn’t look back. Striking out 126 in 76 innings, he was nearly unhittable and shutdown the opposition with a 1.78 ERA.
To bridge the gap to Knebel, the Brewers have Josh Hader back who was nails in the bullpen, though the team is looking to covert back to the rotation. Matt Albers, Boone Logan and J.J. Hoover are veteran additions to deepen the pen while Jeremy Jeffress is a successful former closer.
Unlike a season ago, this team comes into the season with expectations. The Cubs are favored to win the NL Central, but the Brewers should compete for the division and could be a favorite to capture a Wild Card spot.
While it was the offense that was a step behind the pitching last year, it’s the pitching that’s the biggest question for the Brewers in 2018. The offense is deep with options across the diamond in case of injury. The protection in the rotation is a bit less prevalent. There are many starting options with Miley, Hader, Guerra, Yovani Gallardo, but the top of the rotation needs Chase Anderson from 2017 to be the real Chase Anderson. This rotation also needs a healthy Jimmy Nelson for the final four months of the season and they need a healthy Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin to be effective mid-rotation arms.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-31: at San Diego Padres
April 2-4: vs St. Louis Cardinals
April 5-8: vs Chicago Cubs
April 9-11: at St. Louis Cardinals
April 13-15: at New York Mets
April 16-18: vs Cincinnati Reds
April 19-22: vs Miami Marlins
April 24-25: at Kansas City Royals
April 26-29: at Chicago Cubs
April 30-May 2: at Cincinnati Reds
The Brewers got off to a 2-5 start last season after taking on the Rockies and Cubs to open the season. They eventually went on to play significant games in September, before eventually getting eliminated from the postseason. Nevertheless, the start was tough. They have an easier opening series in 2018, but then get a trio of difficult series that could shape the NL Central raise early.
Milwaukee opens the year in San Diego against the Padres. San Diego has one of the best farm systems in the game, but the Major League squad—even with Eric Hosmer—is still some ways off form competing. The pitching just isn’t there.
After that, however, the team has the Cardinals and Cubs at home and then the Cards on the road. They play the Cubs again later in the month of April, too.
A couple early series against Chicago and St. Louis could set an early stage for the NL Central division. These teams fought it out last year with the Cubs beating the Brew Crew 10 of 19 times and St. Louis winning 8 of 19.
If Milwaukee can sit split the series with the Cubs and Cardinals, they could leave April with a solid record given the rest of the schedule features the Mets, Reds, Marlins and Royals.
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