Opening Day is a time to celebrate. The return of baseball, day drinking, Spring weather (not in Chicago). This is also a time to make extreme judgements about teams that in all reality carry no legitimate meaning for the time being. This may be the last day the Cincinnati Reds have a winning record and the reigning NL Champions have struggled to even win a game this weekend. Opening Weekend is one of the most famous sports times to overreact to your favorite baseball team. The Brewers have wrapped up their three games series against the Chicago Cubs and I thought it would be fun, as a Brewers fan to draw up overreactions to first series at Wrigley. Some are good, others much, much worse.
GOOD: The Bullpen
The Crew have been a factory, pumping out arm talent year after year and exposing fans to new names that continue to impress. Over the last year, the Brewers have taken a hit in the name department of their bullpen, losing All-Star Josh Hader at the deadline last year and Brad Boxberger leaving in free agency to the rivals on the Northside of Chicago. However, it sure seems like whatever special juice Chris Hook is serving is working for this organization. While the weather in Chicago has not been ideal baseball conditions (STOP MARCH BASEBALL IN CHICAGO!), the bullpen was lights out in the series. Peter Strzelecki looks to be the newest result of this process in Milwaukee. Strzelecki pitched in the first two games in Chicago and went two innings without surrendering a baserunner on Thursday and Saturday, last year he had an ERA+ of 141 in 35 innings of work. Devin Williams has locked down the closer spot for the foreseeable future, Strzelecki is in prime position to compete for the setup role. Gus Varland had some traffic in his two appearances at Wrigley but was able to work out of it. Javy Guerra was able to put up an impressive first outing with the Crew, although his second appearance of the season could have been better on Sunday, he still showed he has some wicked stuff and can touch 100mph with his fastball. Holby Milner was able to save Guerra from a complete disaster in the second showing, working out of the jam in the 8th inning of the finale on Sunday. Hell, even Matt Bush was able to capture the hold in the win on Saturday. All in all, I would say the pen has a leader, Devin Williams, and that there is loads of potential for another legitimate player or two that can immerge at the back end of the bullpen. Plus, add Aaron Ashby to the mix when he comes back, this is my first series prediction for the unit of the team that will have the most success in the 2023 season.
Most Brewer Fans I believe have accepted that we may never see Christian Yelich at his peak form again. We were spoiled by the two seasons of a 1.000 OPS and while he reached base in each game and had a nice double in the finale of the I-94 series and the weather was not friendly, the power has seemed to disappear from his arsenal. But Yelich has a new role on the team, others had more disappointing beginnings to the 2023 season. Luis Urias went 0-4 in the opener before the head first slide in his final at-bat to first base, a decision that will likely keep him out for two months to start the season. The Crew’s leader in homers last season, Rowdy Tellez, collected just one hit in the series and the Brewers failed to hit a ball over the fence. They have found ways to win with their new look offense, but there lack of “pop” is an area we can overreact to after their short road trip.
GOOD: The Young Guns
This is the part of the blog that I am most excited to write about. We talked about the unfortunate news involving Luis Urias and his injury, but this means we get to experience Joey Wiemer in the big leagues sooner than we expected. We got to see at the tail end of last year the spark plug that is Garrett Mitchell and the beginning of this season should lead you to believe that last September was no fluke. Mitchell had a big game on Sunday in which he notched his first career triple and collected two RBI in the 9-5 win over the Cubs. The man who has made me the most excited however after the opening series has to be Brice Turang. Set to split time with Owen Miller this season, Turang had some of the biggest moments of the weekend in my eyes. After trading Kolten Wong in the offseason, Turang got the nod for the opening day second base job and he was able to grab his first big league knock on the first pitch he saw in his big league career (a feat that Joey Weimer was able to accomplish as well this weekend). Turang also came in to pinch run in game two and was vital in the 8th inning, taking advantage of the bigger bases and swiping second base helping propel the Brewers to the victory. Now head to Sunday where he was able to reach base 4 times and had a huge play taking third on a passed ball that would lead to him scoring on a sac fly. I am hopping on the Brice Turang bandwagon now and will be allowing anyone else to join along.
CONCERNING: Starting Pitching (A Little)
Now don’t get all caught up in your feelings about this headline just yet, I didn’t say bad, but I am concerned. Corbin Burnes had one rough inning on Opening Day and his defense didn’t do him any favors around the infield. But, the fact of the matter is, Since July 27th of last season Corbin has an ERA of 4.19 in 88.1 innings of work. His three opening day walks were very uncharacteristic and with three opening days strikeouts this is the first time in Corbin’s career he posted a stat line with three walks, three strikeouts, and at least five innings of work and only one other occurrence happened in the 2021 season in St. Louis when he recorded 5 innings and only had three strikeouts. While he very much still can turn this ship around, it has been sinking slowly since last season. Brandon Woodruff I had no complaints about, one bad pitched to Ian Happ, oh well, I thought he looked fantastic and has really come to find himself since the Raynaud Syndrome diagnosis last June. Eric Lauer got the bump in Game 3 at Wrigley, kind of a surprise, but Freddy Peralta is set to take the home opener against the Mets. Lauer had an awful Spring in limited time but had an interesting outing at Wrigley. His first two innings were comparable to his Spring, giving up four hits and two runs. Then he pulled a completely 180 in his next three innings, surrending just one hit and generating five whiffs in the process. While it may not be time to panic, it should be on our radar that there is cause for concern for the staff after the opening weekend.
INTERESTING: The New Look Offense
Early we complained that there was no power within this offense, that does not mean that they can’t be exciting in other ways. The speed of this lineup is electric. They set a franchise record of 16 innings scoreless to begin the season, but the way they score runs is quite entertaining to me. The word of the season is going to be “manufacture”. The Brewers have four extra base hits on the season, three of them came from the rookies (Wiemer, Mitchell, Turang each have one). The way these guys put the bat on the ball, run on the bases, and timely put the ball in play is going to be a common occurrence this year with this club. These guys can flat out move, Mitchell: 28.4 ft/sec, Turang: 29.9 ft/sec, and Wiemer: 28.6 ft/sec were all clocked today for the young guns. All of those times approaching “elite” status via Statcast data. Whether it’s smart base running on bloop hits, situational stealing, or hustling out groundballs for infield hits, this team is going to make noise with their legs this season and it will terrorize opposing pitchers when runners are on base all season long.
Up next the Brewers head to American Family Field to take on the Mets and the Cardinals for a six game homestand. The Mets took three games in a four game series from the Marlins over the weekend and the Cardinals won the series two games to one over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Brewers team is young, it has its flaws, and it may not have very high expectations. But, there is a path to success in 2023, they just need to figure out their brand of baseball!