This past week’s games did not appear to spell good fortune for the Milwaukee Brewers. The team dropped a home series to the scrappy Pittsburgh Pirates. However, the Brewers then went on the road and swept the San Diego Padres out on the West Coast. The series sweep of a preseason favorite to appear in the World Series has certainly left the team and their fans feeling good about where the team stands. In this week’s edition of State of the Milwaukee Brewers, we highlight what went right this week and what the team needs to look to improve upon going forward.
What Went Right For The Milwaukee Brewers
After three weeks of games, it is becoming clear that the Brewers’ starting pitching is going to be very special this season. The starting rotation has been so good that there is a movement on social media to get the national media to start paying more attention:
In addition to the stellar starting pitching, the bullpen appeared to settle in during the San Diego series, and did not allow a single run. The offense, too, has started to become more consistent. Early in the season, it appeared as if the Brewers would struggle to score runs in support of their starters. However, entering play with the Cubs this week, the Brewers’ rank third in all of baseball in run differential.
As mentioned, the starting pitching as a whole has been great for the Brewers this year. The greatest of the great, though, is Corbin Burnes. This season, Burnes is doing things no other pitcher has done while garnering early Cy Young attention.
This past week, Corbin Burnes earned a win against the San Diego Padres. He pitched six innings, struck out ten, walked none, and allowed just four hits. This gave him 40 strikeouts over his first four starts of the season. He has not walked a batter yet, and that facet is what makes what he is doing so impressive. Not only did he set the Major League record for most strikeouts to start a season before allowing a walk, he is the first pitcher in Major League history to have 40 strikeouts and no walks over four starts at any point in a season.
While Corbin Burnes has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball, the Brewers’ staff ace has also been lights-out. Brandon Woodruff earned his first win this week, finally getting the run support he deserved. He has a ridiculous 1.96 ERA that would be first on most staffs. Burnes, though, comes in ahead of him with a 0.37 ERA.
Brandon Woodruff, quietly, has been one of the most consistent and best starters in the game since 2019. One metric that shows that is FIP, a stat the measures how a pitcher’s walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed affect their ERA. Here is where Woodruff stands among starters in terms of ERA and FIP among Major League starters:
Needless to say, a pitcher does not end up with a 1.96 ERA without having nasty stuff or giving up big hits. Another metric that shows just how dominant Woodruff has been is barrelled ball percentage. In short, this stat measures how often opposing batters are able to barrell the ball, which usually results in home runs, extra base hits, or, at best, very long loud outs. So far this season, Woodruff is the only pitcher among qualifiers who has not allowed a single pitch to be barrelled:
Omar Narvaez and Travis Shaw Continue to Rake
The two most surprising regular contributors on offense have been Omar Narvaez and Travis Shaw. Shaw still does not have a high batting average or on base percentage, but he does have 15 RBI so far this season. As it stands right now, he is on pace to finish the season with 135 RBI. While this is not likely to happen, it is nice to see him contributing consistently after a woeful 2019 season.
Omar Narvaez, on the other hand, does have a great batting average and on base percentage. He has a slash line of .396/.455/.604 with three home runs and 10 RBI. Through 18 games, Narvaez has already surpassed his home run total from 2020 and has matched his RBI total. In addition, he has established himself as one of the best pitch framers in the game, making him the arguable MVP of the team so far.
Bill McKinney and Jace Peterson Step Up
Christian Yelich, Kolten Wong, and Lorenzo Cain all spent the past week on the IL. To replace them, the Brewers turned to fifth outfielder Billy McKinney and alternate site call up Jace Peterson. Both hit home runs in back-to-back games and have provided solid defense behind the starting pitchers. Speaking of defense, McKinney had this nice gem to save some runs against San Diego:
JP Feyereisen and Josh Hader
Josh Hader notched two saves this week, bringing his season total to three. He gave up a hit against the Padres in the final game of the series, and it was the first hit he had given up all season. Hader looks so much more comfortable and confident in the closer’s role than he did last season.
JP Feyereisen has been a very pleasant surprise for the Brewers all season long. This week against the Padres, he showed just how clutch he can be. After Brad Boxberger loaded the bases with one out, Feyereisen was brough in to preserve the 4-2 lead. He made quick work of the two Padres’ hitters he faced, striking both of them out.
What Went Wrong For The Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers may currently be in first place, but there are still some areas in which the team can improve. After another 4-2 week, it is hard to complain really about their overall performance. However, if these things do not change, they could eventually lead to long weeks for the team.
Keston Hiura is off to a slow start offensively, and that has really caused issues for Craig Counsell as he works out a batting order. Hiura continues to strike out at an alarming rate, but the most glaring indicator of his struggles is that he is not driving the ball to right center. When he does that, it means he is seeing the ball well. He is not doing that now, and it led Counsell to sit Hiura in the last game of the Padres series.
Injuries and Daniel Robertson
In addition to Yelich, Wong, and Cain, Luis Urias exited the first game of the Padres series after suffering a leg cramp. What was unfortunate is that he had just hit a home run in his return to Petco Park. In his absence, utility man Daniel Robertson has been seeing more time in the field. Robertson is struggling at the plate and is not really showing any signs of improvement. When Wong comes back, Peterson may end up staying on the Big League club while Robertson gets sent down.
After all that has been said about how good the Brewers’ starters have been, it may be surprising to see one of them here. After all, Houser has a 3.34 ERA over four starts. However, Houser is not pitching long into games. He has failed to reach the fifth inning in two-straight starts, which has led to a taxed bullpen. Fortunately, Brett Anderson put up an uncharacteristically long outing for himself following Houser’s start, which preserved the bullpen for the Padres series. Additionally, the Brewers had an off-day following his last start, giving the bullpen a full day of rest. Going forward, though, the team needs their third starter to pitch deeper into games.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE HOW THE BREWERS’ SEASON HAS PROGRESSED:
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