The Milwaukee Brewers currently hold a four game lead in the NL Central going into the All-Star break. They are 14 games above .500 and went 20-13 after having to play 33 games in 34 days. Their play to this point has been pretty good at this point of the season.
Milwaukee is in a solid spot, but no one can celebrate yet. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are deciding whether to be buyer or sellers. The Pittsburgh Pirates were done when April was over. The Cincinnati Reds are only four games and playing really well right now. The Brewers just lost a tough four game series to them, and have to play them again after the break.
There is a lot of season left, but the Brewers have a very good chance to take the division this year. So what are a few things they can do to play even better after the All-Star break? Here are a few suggestions.
Get The Bats Going
The Brewers scored four runs against the Reds during their Friday, Saturday and Sunday games. That can’t happen when you are facing your current NL Central competition. They did win on Thursday 5-3, but you have to score more than four runs when you play any three games. Pitching can only do so much for you.
Yes, Josh Hader blew a couple of saves. But the offense had plenty of chances to get men on base and win a few of those games. It should not be that hard to score against the Reds’ bullpen.
Here are a few offensive rankings for Milwaukee. They are 17th in runs per game, have the fourth-highest strike outs per game/third-highest total strike outs, have the second-lowest team batting average at .220, the fourth-lowest total hits and a bottom-third OPS of .691.
The team needs to start to getting people on base, and actually bringing runners home once they are on base. Right now, the Brewers leave an average of 3.38 runners in scoring position on base per game. It’s about the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league, but it seems like it is higher.
What’s the current issue or solution? Who knows. Christian Yelich still hasn’t hit his stride yet. Keston Hiura is striking out way too much again. Plenty of bigger bats are still on the injured list. But something needs to spark to re-ignite the offense to back up the spectacular pitching. Willy Adames, Omar Narvaez, Luis Urias and Jace Peterson are hitting well, but they need others bats to wake up and join them.
Add Power Bench Bat
Milwaukee could definitely use an upgrade when it comes to their pitch-hitting bench. Right now, Pablo Reyes is not the answer if you want to go deep into the playoffs. That’s not to say Reyes is a bad player, he gets some quality at-bats and draws walks. But you need a power bat to scare these relievers.
Granted, Kolten Wong, Lorenzo Cain and Daniel Vogelbach are all still hurt. They also did just trade for Rowdy Tellez. Tellez has struggled a bit since joining the team, but we need to allow some more time. If Vogelbach doesn’t return from injury soon and Tellez/Hiura continue to struggle, the team needs another first base option.
Players like Joey Gallo, Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Mitch Haniger and Jesus Aguilar would be great additions to the team, and all could possibly be traded come the deadline. Tyrone Taylor is a solid bench bat and player right now for the Brewers, but a Cedric Mullins would definitely be an upgrade on the roster. Milwaukee might not have the pieces for a trade like that or room when players like Wong or Cain return though. The Brewers need to do SOMETHING though about their bench bats. Right now it is not ideal and they need to play better.
The current state of the bullpen and it’s usage is riding the highs and sometimes lows of Craig Counsell as manager.
Some people want Hader to pitch two innings again. Counsell is pretty set he will be ninth inning only. You can’t blame Hader to not want to do that anymore, too. That’s a lot to ask when he is fighting for arbitration money every year.
I know the three-batter rule that was basically created to hurt Counsell is hard to adjust to, but at times it seems like there is no consistency. If Devin Williams was blowing by hitters in the eighth and Hader was just used the day before, why not throw him back out to see if he can finish it up? If you use Hader in the ninth and we go to extras, why can’t he be used again?
The use of relief pitchers like Brent Suter is very questionable too at times. Suter is a perfect middle relief innings eater. His fast-pace style and delivery works great when the inning begins and no one is on base. His wind up is completely different when there is no one on base compared to when there are baserunners.
That being said, it is strange when Counsell brings him in for extra innings work when someone is already on base or when there are multiple baserunners. Relievers like Hunter Strickland, Jake Cousins and Miguel Sanchez have all stepped for Milwaukee so far this year and would be better suited for that role.
It’s impressive, since the Brewers did already lose relievers like J.P. Feyereisen, Drew Rasmussen and Trevor Richards via trade this year. It also shows how deep and talented the team’s bullpen is.
Don’t Worry, The Brewers Are a Good Team
No manager can be perfect and will always do their best to pick the player they think will be the best to get the last few outs. It just seems that has been off this year so far when it comes to high-leverage or extra innings situations.
Thankfully, there are a lot more games to work on it and adjust. Right now, the Brewers have a great shot at winning the NL Central and see the postseason for a fourth straight year.
Oh, and also #4 bring back Ryan Braun.