Breathe the free air, Milwaukee: your Brewers have clinched the National League Central division!
While the work is far from over, the Brewers can set themselves up well for the division series beginning October 8th.
The question is: how should the crew prepare themselves in the last week of the regular season? Do the Brewers need to get revenge on the Cardinals or play spoiler for the Dodgers? Should the Brewers rest everyone where they can to avoid injuries?
If I had my way, I would argue both of those options sound great. While that could happen, a 4-2 record is not priority as much as the points below. Here are 5 things Milwaukee should work on in the the final week of the regular season.
1) Take lots of pitches and make the opponents work
While the Cardinals certainly deserve praise for their 16 consecutive victories, the law of averages says they should cool off here soon. Despite the opinion that getting hot in September means you can sustain it through the postseason, great September play does not equate to a great October. Just ask the 2017 Cleveland Indians who went 25-4 in September before getting bounced in the division series. But I digress….
Ultimately, they will be playing in a wild card game potentially against the Dodgers who would still like to clinch their division. Both of these teams have a lot to play for and you can expect they will be motivated against the Brewers.
For Milwaukee, this week does not need to be about making a statement in the regular season. If they do, great but more importantly, its about collecting as much data as you can and by making the Cardinals & Dodgers pitching staff work.
The Brewers will set themselves up well by doing the little things offensively. Work the count, draw walks, and drive more runners in (they left 18 on base last week against the Cardinals). Basically, anyone not named Tyrone Taylor needs to look less lethargic at the plate.
Last week’s sweep appeared to be a wake up call for the Brewers bats. This week, we should expect to see them put in a stronger effort while preparing for postseason play.
2) Give live game action to recently injured players
Because the Brewers have been sitting comfortably in first, it’s given them the flexibility to rest some of their key players through the injured list. Now in the last week, it’s vital to get returning players some live at bats before postseason play.
Willy Adames is the most recent name to come back after an extended time off to heal up for the postseason and thus far has looked great. Devin Williams Sunday pitched a perfect inning in relief after getting some time off for his injured calf.
The next player to return this week should be Rowdy Tellez who hit the injured list because of a kneecap issue. If so, getting him a number of live at bats to pick up his rhythm would be crucial. While the Brewers seem to like their infield configuration of Eduardo Escobar at first and Luis Urias at third, Tellaz is a strong bat you would love to see ready for the division series.
3) Give JBJ some playing time
It is hard to not see Jackie Bradley junior as a huge offseason bust. This season, he owns an abysmal slash line of .163/.236/.264. His OPS (on base plus slugging) of .500 is the lowest of his nine year career. There is a reason why Craig Counsell has limited JBJ to a pitch runner.
Nevertheless, Bradley Jr does posses the pedigree to be an impactful postseason performer. In 2018, Bradley was the American League championship series MVP. In 20 plate appearances, his OPS was 1.067 with two homeruns and nine runs batted in. On top of that, his defense was crucial in getting Boston past the Houston Astros.
Past performance does not guarantee future excellence, especially in a season where he has struggled so mightily, but why not see in this next week what you have in Bradley? While he should not get the nod over Tyrone Taylor for playing time in October, there are a lot of ways JBJ could still be serviceable defensively and offensively in later innings.
4) Rest the arms
The Brewers bullpen has been fantastic for a majority of the season but as Brewers Athletic writer Will Sammon pointed out, this past month was rough.
In September, the Brewers' bullpen has the worst ERA (5.83) in the National League. Walks and home runs have been issues. Josh Hader continues to be a bright spot; he hasn't allowed a run this month, but has pitched just six innings.
— Will Sammon (@WillSammon) September 24, 2021
In a different post, Sammon noted that Brad Boxberger, who had been strong as a seventh inning option, has given up 10 runs in the month of September. Boxberger has thrown a new career high in innings pitched with 63.1.
This suggests the Brewers strategy should be to rest key relievers like Boxberger & Hader, even if that means passing them up in close game situations. The bullpen is so crucial in the postseason, especially as starters have quicker hooks.
The same could be said for having a tighter leash on their aces like Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta who have all thrown new career highs in innings pitched. While the Brewers do not need to skip their next starts completely, there is no reason to see your main starters go deep in games. They can afford to let Brett Anderson or Daniel Norris eat some innings, even if this equates to a loss or two.
I for one am on the Luke Barker hype train and would love to see him get some innings rather then sit in Nashville. But again, I digress…
This next one is for Brewers Twitter….
5) Relax and enjoy the week for what it is
The Brewers and their fans have reason to celebrate. They earned this division with a run differential of +130 which is the third best in the National league, a 46-27 record against the central division, and have the third best record against teams over .500.
There is nothing the Brewers have to do this week to convince anyone that they’re good. They are, and the talent is there for a deep run.
“This team is built for the playoffs.”
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) September 26, 2021
So for us on the “twitterverse”, the Brewers could lose five out of the next six, and they will still be fine. What the Brewers need to focus on in this next week is doing the little things right and playing as quality of ball as they can with six games to go. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy the games while we can. The month of October will be stressful enough.
Come Friday, October 8th, the brewers will be ready…and so should we.
For more Brewers coverage, follow @wisportsheroics & myself @WordOfThe_Weiss!
Numbers are courtesy of Major League Baseball and Baseball Reference.