Only six days have passed since last week’s Memorial Day “Monday Cycle”, but it was a busy week of baseball as the Brewers continue to play solid baseball on the field, and as a result are dominating trade talks. Let’s returns to the quick takes format so we can cover a number of interesting topics surrounding our beloved Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers schedule is about to get absurdly difficult.
Last week, I asked the question of whether or not the Brewers truly need a rebuild; I wasn’t the only one. That very question dominated sports talk radio and has been asked by every major Brewers writer over the past couple of weeks. At 26-31 and 5.5 games out of a wild card spot, many fans seem to think this team is only a couple of pieces away from being able to make a real run.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, one thing is for sure: by the All Star break, we are going to have a very good idea of how this team stacks up against real playoff-caliber clubs. The Brewers have 10 series remaining until the Mid-Summer Classic on July 12th. Eight of those ten series will be played against teams that are either currently in a playoff spot, or just 1.5 games out of one. With the exception of four interleague games against the Oakland A’s, every team the Brewers will face from now until the All Star Break is above .500. They’ve got two series against the Nationals, Dodgers, and Cardinals, and one against the Mets and the Giants.
If the Brewers manage to escape the next 10 series with a .500 record or better, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to make the argument that the Brewers need to trade away their current stars. On the flip side, if the Brewers start losing games in bunches, it will be a lot easier for the front office to justify trading away players that have been critical to the Brewers recent success. Speaking of those players….
No single player has been more valuable to the 2016 Brewers than Jonathan Lucroy.
Jonathan Lucroy was so certain that he was going to be traded this off-season that he sold his family’s Milwaukee home at the advice of his agent. Lucroy made it very clear that while he intended to play hard regardless of the team he was playing for, he did not want to sit around and wait for the rebuild in Milwaukee to pan out. Thus, very few people knew what to expect out of Lucroy when he began the season in a Brewer’s uniform. Fortunately for the Brewers, Lucroy has been one of the best catchers in the game, and has been a difference maker in many of the Brewer’s close wins this season.
If Lucroy had been traded this off-season, Martin Maldonado would have likely been the Brewer’s starting catcher. Maldonado is a career .216 hitter, which is 68 points below Lucroy’s career average of .284. Lucroy has also thrown out an incredible 44% of stolen base attempts, and is just 6 short of his career-high for an entire season with 24 runners caught stealing. The next best catcher in the big leagues has just 16; that’s absurd.
The Brewers have played, and won, a significant amount of close ball games this year. 36 of their 57 games have been decided by three runs or less. So while Ryan Braun and Hernan Perez both have better averages, Lucroy’s ability to throw out runners on the base pads have allowed the Brewers to shift momentum and prevent runners from getting into scoring position. In addition to his defensive stardom, Lucroy is the best hitting catcher in the game with a .313 average; so, you’ve got to figure that Lucroy has made the difference between winning and losing on at least five occasions, if not more. While many fans are worried about how the 2016 Brewers will survive if Ryan Braun is traded, I think that the departure of Jonathan Lucroy would have a much larger effect on wins and losses than any other player on this roster. One thing is for sure, Lucroy’s trade value has never been higher, and GM David Stearns will look like an absolute genius if the Brewers are able to sell their catcher when his value is through the roof.
Welcome back to Matt Garza… but where will he go?
Whether you love him or hate him (most readers of the Sunday Cycle know where I stand on this issue), Matt Garza will make his triumphant return to the Milwaukee Brewers later this week after a two month stay on the DL. If you’ve managed to forget, Garza’s 2015 season was cut short by the Brewer’s decision to shut him down as a starter, and Garza’s subsequent refusal to pitch out of the bullpen. It was a bad situation for a baseball team that was in a bad place, and it all played out in the public eye via interviews and one-liners. He has not pitched in a Brewers uniform since, but that is all going to change this week.
So where do you put Garza? Jimmy Nelson is the clubhouse ace- he’s not going anywhere. Junior Guerra has also solidified his spot in the the starting rotation. And while both Chase Anderson and Zach Davies struggled early on for the Brewers, both pitchers seem to be settling in as of late, with Davies fresh off the best performance of his career this past Wednesday in a win over the Cardinals. That leaves just one spot for Garza if the Brewers intend to slide him into the starting rotation, and that spot belongs to the Brewers 2016 Opening Day starter, Wily Peralta.
Peralta has been awful this year. He gave up six runs in less than five innings today and looked uncomfortable from the start. Even when he gets outs he’s missing his spots and awkwardly looses his balance while finishing his windup. After today’s debacle, he’ll have an ERA just south of 7.00, and he appears to be heading in the wrong direction. I’m a big believer in letting performance dictate who gets playing time, and while Peralta has been regarded as one of the Brewer’s potential future stars, he straight up sucks right now. If the Brewers take starts away from anyone other than Peralta, it would be a huge mistake. An extended stay in the bullpen might be just what Willy needs to hit the reset button and start to work his way back to the pitcher he used to be.