The 2023 Milwaukee Brewers team got the entire fanbase’s hopes up with a strong second half. Looking back the quick exit in 2023 seemed likely Brewers had a flawed roster with an offense full of holes. The MLB Trade Deadline additions of Mark Canha and Carlos Santana helped make it an average offense and covered up a couple of holes, but the lineup had too many liabilities one deadline couldn’t fix.
The additions actually made me think back to the 2022 squad had the Brewers not sold – trading All-Star closer Josh Hader for Taylor Rogers and two prospects – and bought at the deadline while up 3 games in the NL Central, I feel it could have been the team best equipped for a deep playoff run since the 2018 team’s National League Championship Series trip.
The #Brewers, hoping that Trevor Rosenthal would help the sting of trading All-Star closer Josh Hader, is now out for the season. The Brewers have lost 14 of their last 22 games since the trade deadline and are now 6 games out of 1st place. The trade was disastrous for 2022.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) August 27, 2022
Instead, the Brewers sold on the 2022, and in the post-season GM press conference, the memorable phrase ‘bites of the apple’ came about.
It seems odd to say, but the only Brewers team to not make the playoffs in the last six years may have had one of the best chances to make a deep postseason run. The 2019 team had potential also until Christian Yelich hit a ball off his knee.
Many thought this year’s team had that in them. But it may have been wishful thinking as the offense needed trade deadline acquisitions of Canha and Santana to even get to the 2022 team’s offensive level.
The Phillies win. That’s all, folks. Milwaukee misses the postseason for the first time since 2017. After the hottest 50-game start in franchise history, the Brewers crumbled. There will be no bites of the apple in 2022.
— Curt Hogg (@CyrtHogg) October 4, 2022
The Brewers’ 2022 offense was sneakily very good
This year’s team in the first half had an OPS under .690, which was last in the NL. The Brewers had the lowest average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in the National League for much of the first half. In the second half of 2023, the Brewers had a .724 OPS. The 2022 team had the same top rotation arms in Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta.
In 2022, they had a .724 OPS as a team – .721 first half, .729 second half. Imagine if the front office would have made some additions to that offense with the lights-out backend of the bullpen and stellar starting pitching like this season. It would have been like adding a couple of bats to the Brewers’ 2023 second-half team with Canha and Santana in tow.
Some positions on the Brewers’ 2022 squad were significantly better than the 2023 Brewers. Here are some of those:
Right field. The Brewers had the worst OPS from right field of any MLB club, with an anemic .589 in 2023. In 2022, Hunter Renfroe delivered in a big way with 29 homers and a 124 OPS+, and right field boasted an .821 OPS. In 2022, right field was the Brewers’ best offensive position, and in 2023 it was the worst in MLB.
- Second base. The second base wasn’t much better than right field, with just a .602 OPS. Brice Turang had a brutal offensive season in 2023 with a 62 OPS+. In 2022, Kolten Wong had a 116 OPS+. Wong led Brewers’ second basemen in 2023 to the second-best OPS on the team positionally at .760.
Designated hitter. Jesse Winker was horrendous for the Brewers in 2023 and hit just one homer. It wasn’t great in 2022, either, but it was far better than this year. Keston Hiura, in limited time, did have a 113 OPS+, but in 2022, the OPS by DH was just a tick below .700. Andrew McCutchen was slightly below average with a 97 OPS+, but in 2023, Brewers DHs OPS was a paltry .668, but it was that high mostly due to William Contreras when he wasn’t behind the dish.
The 2022 Brewers also had more typical seasons from Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames. In 2022, the duo each had an OPS+ of 110 or higher. This year, neither player could seem ever to get going. Adames had just a 95 OPS+ in 2023, and Tellez’s was just 82. Tellez had such a rough year he was left off the playoff roster for Winker. Ouch.
Now, the 2023 team did have a much better bat at catcher with William Contreras, but other than that, the 2022 offense was much better. If they could have received a boost after the deadline, it could have been a pretty legitimate offense to compliment a strong staff.
Same typical strong rotation for the Brewers
As has been the case since 2018, the Brewers boasted a strong rotation led by the Big 3: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta. While there was no Wade Miley on the 2022 Brewers, they had 11-win Eric Lauer. Lauer was the Brewers’ No. 4 pitcher and won 11 games.
The Brewers also had a typically strong bullpen with Devin Williams, the setup man until the Hader trade.
Instead, they sold on that team, and had they not crumbled after the trade of an All-Star closer, they probably would have done that this year…. but looking back, 2022 was the team to go in on, and 2023 was the team to sell.
Sep 11, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) high-fives teammates following the game against the Miami Marlins at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The what-if game for the 2022 Brewers
Now, looking back, you can’t do anything other than say what if on the 2022 Brewers, despite being possibly the best team to make a deep postseason run since 2018, the front office sold on the club. If the Brewers even went into 2022, having traded Hader in the offseason, I think the Brewers would have made the postseason. Trading him in-season sent the wrong message to the team and derailed what could have been a special season. After another early flameout in the postseason, the loud what if and snapping bite of an apple resonates even more now. What if…….