After an up-and-down first week of their 2021 season, the Milwaukee Brewers had a dominant week against two NL Central rivals. Even though it is early in the season, it is hard to not be excited for the potential of this team. The Brewers are currently tied for first in the NL Central while their pitching continues to make history. In this second edition of the State of the Milwaukee Brewers, we recap their games against the Cubs and Cardinals by highlighting what went right as well as what areas may still be of concern.
What Went Right For The Milwaukee Brewers
Last week, we highlighted how good the starting pitching was for the Brewers. That will continue this week as the rotation has been among the best in the Majors. In addition, some position players who struggled in Week One started to come around this week and helped the Brewers go 4-2 against their two most-hated rivals.
The Starting Rotation
The Brewers’ starting rotation has been the best at keeping runs off the board in all of baseball so far this season. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Adrian Houser, Brett Anderson, and Freddy Peralta all pitched well this week.
A deeper dig into their efficiency shows that the Brewers’ starters are performing at a historic level. The Brewers’ starters have gone eight straight starts of pitching at least five innings while allowing zero or just one run. That is the longest run in team history, breaking the team record set 1976. That rotation, led by Jim Slanton, did it in seven straight games.
It is also worth noting that Freddy Peralta is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA. In his last start, he pitched six shutout innings and struck out 10 Cubs’ batters. Peralta currently leads all of baseball with 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
As good as Freddy Peralta as been, Corbin Burnes has been even better. As historic as the Brewers’ starting rotation has been, Burnes has been even more historic.
The stats in the above Tweet, on the surface, are impressive. However, it is not until one realizes how many times this has happened in baseball history that one realizes just how special Corbin Burnes has been so far. In short, the last time a pitcher had 30 strikeouts and zero walks in their first three starts of a season was in 1906.
In addition, prior to his last start against the Cubs, Burnes had pitched two consecutive starts in which he allowed just one hit in six-plus innings while walking no one. Just how rare is that feat?
Burnes’ streak was halted against the Cubs, but he was nonetheless dominant. He allowed just two hits, struck out 10, and even added a two-RBI single at the plate.
Over the last seven days, Travis Shaw is boasting a batting average of .363 and an on-base percentage of .416. In addition, he hit two home runs and drove in six runs. Shaw also improved his patience at the plate, walking twice while striking out three times. In the first week of the season, he had walked once while striking out five times.
Last season, the Brewers struggled to hit with runners in scoring position. The addition of Shaw has helped improve their production in this aspect of the offense. So far, Shaw is hitting .333 with runners in scoring position and has 12 RBI on the season.
On the surface, it does not appear that Luis Urias belongs in this section of what has gone right for the Brewers. After all, he is only hitting .129 on the young season. However, over the past week, Urias has made his presence known in other ways. In addition to stellar defense, Urias hit his first home run as a Brewer in the team’s 3-2 loss to the Cubs. More significantly, though, is that Urias drew 10 walks this week while striking out just three times. Despite the low batting average, Urias is obviously seeing the ball very well and has a .372 on-base percentage so far this season.
In the Brewers’ last six games, Avisail Garcia appeared in five of them. He made the most of his playing time this week, hitting .315 with two home runs and seven RBI. He was particularly effective in the Cardinals series. In the first game, he went 2/4 with a home run and five RBI. In the second game, he was just 1/5 but hit a two-run home run. His homer in the first game led to this fun video made and posted by Christian Yelich:
When the Brewers made the decision to add Bill McKinney to the Opening Day roster as their fifth outfielder, many wondered if that was a smart move. However, given the injury issues in the Brewers’ outfield this week, it has turned out to be one of the best decisions the team could have made. Over the past week, McKinney has been one of the team’s hottest hitters, hitting .333 over 12 at bats this week.
McKinney played each of the three games of the Cubs series. He went 3/3 in the first game and drove in two runs during the series. Without a doubt, McKinney has become a key contributor to the Brewers’ offense and will be important to their consistency throughout the season.
What Went Wrong For The Milwaukee Brewers
Despite having a winning week, there are some aspects of the Brewers’ roster that need to be addressed in order for them to have continued success. The season, of course, is still young and there is still time for improvements. However, these players are under the microscope as the scope of the season begins to come into clearer focus.
Injuries In The Outfield
Christian Yelich missed the entire Cubs’ series due to a sore back. He has dealt with this issue early in seasons before, and the injury has not landed him on the IL yet. If it was serious, undoubtedly he would have been put on the IL so that the Brewers could bring up an extra bat. As it stands, however, he may return for the weekend series against the Pirates.
Lorenzo Cain, who missed time in Spring with a strained right quad, has landed on the IL with strained left quad. He sustained the injury while trying to beat out a ground ball early in the Cubs’ series. The Brewers recalled Tryone Taylor from the alternate training site to take his spot on the roster.
Kolten Wong On The IL
Kolten Wong made a very emotional return to St. Louis in his first game there since signing with the Brewers as a free agent. The St. Louis crowd gave him a warm standing ovation as he stepped into the box for his first at bat. Unfortunately, that would be the only game he would play in the series. During the game, Wong injured his oblique and was put on IL after the game. Jace Peterson was brought up from the alternate training site to take his place on the roster.
Eric Yardley’s Struggles
Last season, Eric Yardley was one of the Brewers’ best relief pitchers. This season, however, he has struggled mightily:
In five games this season, Yardley has a 9.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP. The Brewers decided to option him down to the alternate training site after he continued to struggle this week. Angel Perdomo was recalled to take his spot in the bullpen. In Perdomo’s only appearance this week, he did what Yardley could not. He pitched a scoreless inning of relief while striking out two. Hopefully Yardley is able to figure it out because he will, undoubtedly, be back at some point and the Brewers will need to use him in close games.
Entering the season, many fans were excited to see that Drew Rasmussen had made the Opening Day roster. Unfortunately, Rasmussen has struggled nearly as much as Yardley early on. This week, Rasmussen appeared in three games, but pitched just 2.1 innings while giving up four runs. If Rasmussen cannot figure out how to get batters out soon, he may be joining Yardley at the alternate training site soon.
- Keston Hiura hit .250 this week and had his first home run of the season. He also had a .368 on-base percentage this week.
- JP Feyereisen and Brad Boxberger continue to be solid out of the pen. They combined to pitch five innings of shutout ball this week.
- Daniel Vogelbach probably needs to see some of the balls he puts into play fall for hits. He is seeing the ball well and is not striking out much, but the hits are just not falling for him. He went 1/11 this week at the plate.
- Craig Counsell has said he will not be using Devin Williams in high-pressure situations until he gets a little more game action this season. The 2020 NL Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the Year missed much of Spring Training due to injury.
- The Brewers have series against the Pirates and Padres this week.
If You Want To See How The Brewers’ Season Has Progressed:
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