The first week of Milwaukee Brewers baseball has come and gone. After 2020 in which the season was shortened and fans were not present at games, this week’s action was highly anticipated. There were some tremendous highs, but also some frustrating lows. Here at Wisconsin Sports United, we will bring you a weekly State of the Milwaukee Brewers, in which we recap the week’s games and highlight important or developing stories. Without further ado, here is the first edition of the State of the Milwaukee Brewers following their opening week of baseball.
What Went Right for the Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers made the postseason last year for the third consecutive season. A major reason for this was the team’s offense was marred by slumps all throughout the batting order, but the pitching shone brightly. This past week, the pitching again showed that it is among the best in the Majors. In addition, a couple of players who struggled all year last season have shown that 2020 was but an anomaly.
Homegrown Starters Lead the Way
The Brewers’ starting rotation contains three pitchers whom the Brewers have been developing for years. Brandon Woodruff started on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. It was the first time any Brewers’ pitcher started consecutive Opening Days since Yovanni Gallardo. Woodruff was a little eratic on Opening Day, though. He did not make it out of the fifth, but the Brewers still found a way to win. On Wednesday, April 7, Woodruff took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Cubs. As great as the performance was, what was historic about it was this little nugget:
The Brewers could not get any run support for Woody early, but Lorenzo Cain provided the heroics late (more on that later). Woodruff ends his first week of work with a sparkly 2.45 ERA.
Corbin Burnes was the Brewers pitcher who originally took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning earlier this week. Unfortunately, so did his opponent, Jose Berrios. Burnes ended up giving up a solo shot in the seventh inning of the second game of the season, and received the loss. However, he was otherwise spectacular. He struck out 11 batters and looked every bit as good as he did in 2020.
Freddy Peralta started the second game of the series against the Cubs. He previously appeared in relief of Woodruff on Opening Day. In his first appearance, he pitched two innings, walked three, but struck out six. Most importantly, he did not allow a single run. Similarly in his first start, he walked a ton of batters, but notched eight strikeouts, just one hit, and did not allow a single run. Following a stellar bullpen performance by Brent Suter and Brad Boxberger, Peralta came away with the win.
Omar Narvaez and Christian Yelich
Last season, few Brewers hitters struggled more than Omar Narvaez and Christian Yelich. Both, historically, are good hitters, especially Christian Yelich, a two-time NL batting champion and MVP. Both appear to have put last season behind them and are back to their hitting ways. Perhaps the most surprising offensive player so far has been Narvaez, who has nearly matched his home run and RBI total from last week in just a week this season.
Currently, Omar Narvaez is hitting .467. Of course, he will not keep that up. However, he is showing that he is a good, consistent hitter and has also improved his defense since the start of last season.
Christian Yelich has yet to hit a home run this season, but he does have a .318 batting average and .423 on base percentage. The home runs will come, but what is important is that he is seeing the ball well and drawing walks. Those are two things he did not do well at all in 2020.
Josh Hader, Brent Suter, Brad Boxberger, and J.P. Feyereisen
The above Brewers’ relief pitchers have combined to allow just one run all week. Josh Hader has been nearly untouchable. In two appearances, the fireballer has five strikeouts against just one walk. He has not allowed a single hit. Brent Suter gave up a run in his first appearance, but pitched three no-hit innings in relief of Freddy Peralta against the Cubs. Brad Boxberger joined the team after Orlando Arcia was traded. He has pitched 1.1 innings, has not given up a hit, and earned the save in the final game of the Cubs series.
J.P Feyereisen has been the Brewers’ work horse early this season. He has appeared in four of the team’s six games and has not given up an earned run. The Cubs’ runner on second scored on him today and he was lifted for Boxberger in the final game. However, that is not surprising given his work load. He has been very reliable and still carries a 0.00 ERA.
What Went Wrong for the Milwaukee Brewers
As mentioned previously, the Brewers’ offense struggled mightily in 2020. While Omar Narvaez and Christian Yelich seem to have broken out of their slumps, others have not. In addition, some pitchers that the team felt it could rely on early have struggled in their first few opportunities. The season is still young, however these will be some names to keep an eye on.
Keston Hiura, Avisail Garcia, and Luis Urias Struggle Early
Keston Hiura moved over to first base and has been adequate. However, he has yet to record a hit this season and has struck out a whopping 10 times. Hiura will likely figure it out at some point, but he has been very tough to watch at the plate. He had a very good Spring Training, so there is plenty of hope. At the end of the day, the 19 at bats he has had so far are just a drop in the bucket over the course of the season. That being said, the Brewers (and their fans) will be watching Hiura very closely this season.
Avisail Garcia has provided some great defense in the field, but is only hitting .182. Jackie Bradley Jr. (not mentioned above) also has struggled, making the platoon a bit of a question mark going forward. Again, it is early; but given the anemic offense of 2020, the Brewers and their fans are watching cautiously.
Luis Urias has been handed the the starting short stop position, and has not responded well early. Indeed, it seems like he is almost an automatic out when he comes up to the plate. He is hitting just .111 and struck out three times in the last game against the Cubs. His defense has been exciting, but the Brewers made a lot of sacrifices to make him the starting short stop. It will be devastating if he cannot produce.
Devin Williams and Eric Yardley
Devin Williams did not pitch much this spring because of his rehab from an injury. The rust is showing early and he has given up a run in each game that he has pitched. In the final game against the Cubs, his home run to Joc Pederson cost Brandon Woodruff a win. Granted, he settled down and retired the next three batters. Williams, the NL Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year last year, will settle in eventually. However, he has had an ugly week.
It is, perhaps, unfair to put Yardley here. However, he did have a costly home run given up on Opening Day. The Brewers ended up winning, but Yardley surrender a moon shot to Byron Buxton that extended the early Twins’ lead. In each of his next appearances, he has not allowed a run, but the Brewers have lost both games. Certainly they have not been his fault; however, it is hard to ignore that the Brewers have been losing whenever he comes in.
- Kolten Wong and Daniel Vogelbach each are hitting below .200, but both have on base percentages over .360.
- Lorenzo Cain has played in two games, but drove in all four runs with two home runs against the Cubs in the finale of the series; he had missed time nursing an injury.
- Orlando Arcia was traded to the Atlanta Braves for two pitching prospects.
- The Brewers have series against the Cardinals and Cubs this week.
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