The Milwaukee Brewers woke up Thursday looking more and more likely to clinch a spot in the playoffs for just the fifth time in franchise history. While there are plenty of overt storylines to follow, here are some of the things you may not have realized:
Josh Hader is the fourth-best reliever in Brewers history. In a career.
Nobody needs to be told that Josh Hader is having one of the best seasons for a reliever — for any team — in history. But Hader’s brief career may already be one of the best careers ever for Brewers relievers. According to Fangraphs’ WAR (which is a cumulative stat, so it definitely favors players who have been around a long time), Hader is worth 4.3 wins above replacement. The only relievers worth more? Dan Plesac, Rollie Fingers and Mike Fetters.
Jeremy Jeffress is sixth on the list and Corey Knebel seventh. You could literally make the case that the current Brewers bullpen features three of the franchise’s seven best relievers ever.
The Brewers only have a positive run differential in the second half thanks to the Reds series
Milwaukee has been on a great run in the second half of the season, and the offense has done its part. But the Brewers haven’t dominated opponents, either. In fact, through mid-September, they had a negative run differential in the second half, a circumstance that would usually suggest win-loss struggles.
The Brewers are only plus-11 runs since the all-star break, and that’s only in the black because they just outscored the Reds, 16-3, over three games.
There are a couple factors in play, including a number of lopsided losses in August (21-5, 11-5, 10-1 and 9-1) and a series of close wins. Thank your nearest Brewers reliever today.
The Brewers are efficient with their home runs
You hear every year that the Brewers are “too focused on hitting home runs.” One metric shows that the Brewers, however, are pretty efficient with their homers, posting a home run/fly ball ratio of 12.2 percent. That’s third best in baseball, behind the Yankees (who play in perhaps baseball’s most homer-friendly park) and the Rangers, and ahead of the Rockies. Coors Field should be a haven for fly balls getting over the fence, but the Brewers are better than Colorado at turning fly balls into runs.
They’re going to threaten the franchise record for pitching strikeouts in a season
You may not think of Milwaukee’s rotation as one that misses a lot of bats, but the team overall is posting strikeouts at a record pace.
With nine games remaining, Brewers pitchers have 1,339 strikeouts, seven behind the 2017 team for second in franchise history. The 2012 team’s 1,402 stands as the record.
Milwaukee averages 8.75 strikeouts per game, and if that holds for the nine games to close the year, it would amount to 78 strikeouts and a new franchise record of 1,417.
For the first time since 2013, they’ll actually have fewer batting strikeouts than the year before
Strikeouts are up all over baseball (if you don’t believe me, just tilt your ear to hear the screaming across baseball media about it). The Brewers will finish with the third-most whiffs in franchise history, but that’s actually still an improvement.
The last few years have seen a steady increase…
2013: 1,183 strikeouts
The latter two values are the highest two in franchise history. The current team (1,376) is going to pass the 2001 team (1,399) for third place, but it’s not going to get higher in the rankings.
Among players with less than 100 plate appearances, Keon Broxton is having one of the best seasons in baseball history
Bear with us on this one.
If we look at position players with less than 100 plate appearances in a single season, Keon Broxton’s 1.6 WAR is tied for the second-highest EVER, behind only Minnesota’s Steve Lombardozzi in 1985 (1.7).
WAR, of course, takes defense and base-running into account, which is where Broxton excels, so using an offensive metric like 100 plate appearances is probably a questionable way to sort here. He has 83 plate appearances in 2018 through Sept. 19, and he’s struggling a bit at the dish (.181 batting average, .678 OPS). But if anyone tells you Broxton has been a disappointment, they are wrong — at least one metric feels he has made about as big a contribution as he can with his limited opportunities.
By the way, Brett Phillips in 2017 had 98 plate appearances and a 1.4 WAR. Defense wins championships and WARs.
The Brewers’ production is almost entirely from non-homegrown players
I suppose this could be a good thing or bad thing, but it speaks to David Stearns’ ability to shape the roster.
That means the collective contributions of players who were drafted and developed through the Brewers system is 1.4 wins above replacement. It’s a pretty small pool of contributors who were drafted in-house: Corbin Burnes, Jacob Barnes, Jeremy Jeffress, Taylor Williams, Brandon Woodruff, Orlando Arcia, Brent Suter, Nate Orf and Ryan Braun. Braun and Jeffress are not included in the 1.4 WAR count, either, as they are not “pre-free agent” homegrown talent.
Bonus intrigue: Let’s check in on the other guys everyone wanted the Brewers to acquire
In case you wanted to feel good one more time about the team’s decision to sign Jhoulys Chacin, let’s review the pitching options …
Free agents heading into 2018:
Jhoulys Chacin, Brewers: 14-8, 3.54 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.197 WHIP (2 years, $15.5 million).
Alex Cobb, Orioles: 5-15, 4.90 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.41 WHIP (4 years, $57 million).
Jake Arrieta, Phillies: 10-9, 3.77 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.26 WHIP (3 years, $75 million).
Yu Darvish, Cubs: 1-3, 4.95 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 1.425 WHIP, injured and out for season (6 years, $126 million).
Lance Lynn, Yankees: 9-10, 4.90 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.527 WHIP, traded from Twins to Yankees (1 year, $12 million).
Mid-season trade targets:
Matt Harvey, Reds (since Brewers’ late-August waiver claim was denied): 1-4, 5.60 ERA, Brewers have won two games he’s started.
Chris Archer, Pirates (since trade deadline): 2-3, 4.86 ERA, Brewers have won two games he’s started.
Kevin Gausman, Braves (since trade deadline): 5-2, 2.61 ERA.
Gio Gonzalez, Brewers (since Brewers’ late-August acquisition): 2-0, 1.65 ERA, Brewers have won all three games he’s started.