With one week in the books, let’s take a look at what Milwaukee Brewers fans have learned so far.
This isn’t last year’s team. GM David Stearns ran off nine trades that netted 16 players after taking the job last year. Stearns has repeatedly said he’s looking to stock up on pitchers – not just arms – but pitchers that throw strikes and get ahead in the count. Stearns also feels the Brewers outfield has a lot of depth and is an area of strength. So if this isn’t the 2015 team that went 68-94, then what can fans expect?
Opening week is a small sample size, but so far the team is showing plate patience. Last year they ranked 25th out of the 30 MLB teams in drawing walks. Through six games this season they have walked 26 times – their best since opening week in 2009. You have to know that manager Craig Counsell has preached to them about making a pitcher work. Anyone that watched Counsell a lot during his career saw a lot of 10+ pitch at bats. Big slugger/high strikeout guy Chris Carter worked on his plate approach a lot during spring training, and drew a couple walks on Opening Day to the surprise of fans expecting “all or nothing.” On Sunday the Brewers drew six walks off AL Cy Young award winner Dallas Kuechel, and hopefully this is a sign of more to come.
Power sources the first week included two homers from Carter and three from second baseman Scooter Gennett. One of Gennett’s homers came on Opening Day off Madison Bumgarner, and he’s now halfway to his entire 2015 total of six round-trippers.
Bright spots on the pitching side include starter Jimmy Nelson’s strong performance against Houston on Sunday. Nelson has 12 strikeouts in 13.1 innings of work, to go with a 2.70 ERA. Jeremy Jeffress has done a nice job of taking over the closer role after the departure of Francisco Rodriguez and the freak injury to Will Smith. He has three saves so far and no runs allowed in 3.2 innings. Other relievers with no ERA with at least three innings pitched include Michael Blazek, Blaine Boyer, and Tyler Thornburg. On the opposite side of the coin, Wily Peralta has been lit up in two outings with a 10.80 ERA over just 8.1 innings, plus an even walk/strikeout ratio of 6/6. Matt Garza is on the shelf for roughly 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Brewers fans are interested to see which Matt Garza will return from the DL – the one that struggled last year or an earlier version.
When does Stearns pull the trigger on a Jonathan Lucroy trade? Even though Houston and Texas have been mentioned as possible trade partners, talks reportedly have cooled off, perhaps due to a big return requested by Stearns. Wait and see is what we keep hearing.
Down on the farm there are several ex-major leaguers hoping to get back to the bigs, and a few top prospects on the horizon. The Triple A Colorado Springs Sky Sox are loaded with former big league players like Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Hernan Perez, Michael Reed, Eric Young Jr., Tim Dillard, David Goforth, Zach Davies, and Ariel Pena (recently sent down). Most fans are interested on 21 year old shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia and when he might finally be brought up to the Brewers. In four games Arcia is 5-16 with his first Triple A RBI – good for a .313 average and he has a .389 on base percentage.
So as many insiders like Counsell have been saying, this Brewers team is happy to fly under the radar a bit as individuals try to prove their worth. It’s very hard to say what the end record might be, but that may be a moot point as far as Counsell is concerned, as he seems to be more interested in player development this season. There are a lot of “ifs” for anyone wanting to play the armchair game and predict a record. You might be better off trying to predict Chris Carter’s batting average or when David Stearns makes another trade!
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