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How they lost the NLCS to the Dodgers

The Milwaukee Brewers took the Los Angeles Dodgers the distance, but came up short in Game 7. How did this series get away from the Brewers? (and how can they avoid this next year?)

The 2018 World Series starts on Tuesday, and the Milwaukee Brewers won’t play in it. That was a difficult sentence to type. Was this a case of the Los Angeles Dodgers being better or did the Brewers shoot themselves in the foot? Or was it a mix of both?

What happened to the offense?

The Milwaukee Brewers only scored 24 runs in the seven-game series, meaning they averaged 3.4 runs per game. They also struck out 79 times, and posted a .678 OPS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Brewers also managed 24 extra base hits, including six homers. That’s the bad news.

The good news is the Dodgers were worse. The Dodgers only scored 23 runs, struck out 82 times, and posted a team OPS of .632. They also only hit 14 extra base hits, including five homers. As anemic as the Brewers offense seemed, the Dodgers were actually worse.

So where was the difference?

On offense? The only stat that really jumped off the page was the way the two offenses performed with runners on base. The Los Angeles Dodgers posted a pedestrian .676 OPS with runners on, and three of their homers came with runners on.

The Milwaukee Brewers only managed a .519 OPS with runners on and only one homer. The Dodgers did more damage with runners on, and were able to capitalize. That was a huge difference in a seven-game series that had two teams with a runner differential of one.

How about the pitching?

Starting pitching was expected to be the Achilles’ heel of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2018 NLCS. It really wasn’t.

‘Starting’ pitchers for the Brewers only through 20 1/3 innings during the NLCS. For comparison sake, the Boston Red Sox received 24 2/3 innings from their starters, but their series only lasted five games.

In their 20 1/3 innings of work, Milwaukee Brewers starters managed a 2.66 ERA, struck out 14, walked eight, and surrendered three homers. Starters for the Los Angeles Dodgers posted an ERA of 4.76 in 34 innings.

The bullpen was fantastic, right?

Yes and no. The Milwaukee Brewers leaned into their bullpen during this series, and needed 45 1/3 innings. Their bullpen managed a 3.38 ERA, struck out 68, walked 15, and was tagged for two homers. The problem was that the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was even better.

The Dodgers needed 31 innings from their relief corps, and got a 1.45 ERA. The Brewers offense only hit .180 against Dodgers relievers.

What can the Brewers do to recover?

Well, finding an offense that doesn’t run as hot and cold would help, but that’s a challenge. They have an athletic team, but that doesn’t translate into speed on the base paths. Adding players that are capable of getting on-base, and using their legs to get into scoring position could make it easier to manufacture runs even in a playoff series.

On the mound? An ace-level starter would help, but so would stretching out Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Allowing Freddy Peralta to throw without the training wheels could also help. The Brewers should also look to add another arm or two to the bullpen. If they’re going to lean on their relievers again, they need to have more guys they can trust. Add another top-flight reliever behind Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, and Josh Hader, and they can shorten games to five innings instead of six.

Next: Listen to us discuss the series here

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The Milwaukee Brewers had a great 2018 campaign, and it’s really sad for it to end with a series loss. However, they’re set for a really interesting off-season, and it’s clear that they have the pieces in place to contend for several years. Their window is wide open, and it’s time to add pieces to take the team to the next level.

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