After a terrible start to the season, the Milwaukee Brewers were expected to be big sellers. That no longer appears as likely.
Sure, they dealt third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates, and outfielder Gerardo Parra will find a new home soon enough. But both are obvious trade candidates with expiring contracts.
It appears the Brewers aren’t yet ready to give up on 2016.
If the Brewers intended to embark on a full rebuild, they’d recognize the unlikelihood of contending in 2016, and therefore, the lack of value in holding onto a player that will leave after next season. Even with his team-friendly contract, Carlos Gomez is worth more to the Brewers long term in a trade than in their lineup.
Instead, the Brewers appear unlikely to trade the center fielder unless they’re “blown away” by an offer.
The Brewers should absolutely hold out for the best possible deal in their situation. The market for hitters appears strong and Gomez is one of the best available. There’s little to gain by pulling the trigger before they’re sure they’ve gotten the best deal.
But there is plenty to gain by trading Gomez now rather than waiting until the offseason.
With his combination of speed, power and defense, Gomez would be a significant upgrade for a number of contenders. A team acquiring the 29-year-old now could plug Gomez into their lineup for the 2015 pennant race as well as all of next season.
Waiting until the offseason could change that market, while also reducing the Brewers’ potential return. Injury and performance concerns can’t be ruled out, and if Gomez is affected by either, it could lower his value.
Considering the Brewers are at least a couple of years from seriously contending, there’s little reason not to capitalize now. Interest is high, and not just among contenders.
The Brewers may not be blown away by any offers this week, but they’ll get some good ones. Send Gomez to the highest bidder.
This is the team the Milwaukee Brewers expected. It just came a few months too late.
After a mediocre start to the season, the Brewers entered Wednesday as one of the hottest teams in baseball. No team has won more games since June 23, and their 17-6 mark ranks second only to the Los Angeles Angels, by one loss. Going back over their last 30 games, the Brewers’ 18-12 record is third overall and tied for first in the NL.
The hot streak has been powered in large part by a much-improved offense. Over the last month, the Brewers own an MLB-leading .298 average and .364 on-base percentage, while their .463 slugging percentage and 127 runs rank second. They’ve also slugged 26 home runs and tallied 45 doubles, both second-best in the NL.
Gerardo Parra has led the way, putting up a slash line of .373/.424/.687 as one of baseball’s hottest hitters. He’s also hit five home runs, seven doubles and two triples, while scoring 19 runs and driving in 12. With just over a week until the July 31 deadline, Parra quickly has become one of the Brewers’ best trade pieces.
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Brewers pitchers have been similarly strong, ranking sixth with a 2.91 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .230 average.
There’s just one major problem: the Brewers still are far from contending for a playoff spot. Between their terrible start (16-34) and the toughest division in baseball, even the wild card remains wishful thinking.
Despite going 26-18 since May 31, Milwaukee has actually lost ground in the division race, going from 161/2 games to 171/2 back. They’ve fared slightly better in the wild card race, gaining two games and moving to nine back.
Much of this problem lies within the NL Central.
Over the last 50 games, the top four teams in the NL are the Pirates (33-17), Cardinals (32-18), Brewers (26-24) and Cubs (26-24). Since May 31, three of MLB’s top five come from the Central, with the Cubs close behind in eighth.
Make no mistake, the Brewers’ hot streak is a good thing. It improves trade value and increases fan interest in coming out to the ballpark.
One great month just isn’t enough to save this season.
Win or lose, Milwaukee fans have fun at Miller Park. But the lose option has been more frequent than usual lately.
In fact, poor play at home is almost entirely to blame for the Brewers’ lost season. While they’ve gone 22-24 on the road, they have just 16 wins in 44 home games.
No team has won fewer games at home this season, with only the Rangers matching them at 16, but in two fewer games. The average home record among MLB teams is 24-20, putting the Brewers eight games off the pace. Their road record, on the other hand, is a game better than the league average mark of 20-24.
Since opening Miller Park in 2001, the Brewers have gone 609-569 (.517) there, with seven seasons each above and below .500. Their best home mark came in 2011 at 57-24, while their worst was a pair of 31-50 years in 2002 and 2003.
So, what’s the problem with the Brewers at home?
It starts with the 72 home runs they’ve given up, which is 14 more than any other team. Their 46 home runs ranks fifth in the National League offensively, but that’s still a 26-home run gap in 44 home games. By contrast, they’ve allowed just 28 home runs on the road, the second-fewest total in MLB. With 38 offensive homers, that gives the Brewers a 10-home run advantage away from home.
As for runs scored, the Brewers have a 186-177 advantage on the road, while being outscored 232-174 at home. They’ve also been outhit 412-352 at home while holding a 412-388 edge on the road. Across the board, the numbers show a similar trend.
The cause of this discrepency is unclear, but a trip to Miller Park is no longer as likely to end in a win.
It’s no secret that increased offense has fueled the Milwaukee Brewers’ recent hot streak. But where exactly is that offense coming from?
It appears the key to their outburst has been the first inning.
Over their last 16 games, the Brewers have slashed .383/.444/.617 in the first inning with 22 runs scored on 31 hits, including five home runs and four doubles. They’ve outscored opponents 22-5 in the opening frame, which has accounted for 25 percent of their 89 total runs over the same stretch.
The Brewers have gone 12-4 since June 23, winning four straight series before dropping the first two games to the Atlanta Braves. In the four losses, the Brewers scored just two first-inning runs, while plating 20 in the 12 wins.
This boost in early run production leading to wins follows a seasonlong trend for the Brewers. They’re 27-14 when scoring first, and just 10-36 when their opponent scores first. The 22 first-inning runs also have helped make the frame the Brewers’ most productive.
Through June 22, the Brewers’ best inning had been the third, with 37 runs. The first and fourth innings were tied for second at 32 runs. They’ve now plated 54 runs in the first, 10 more than their new second-best mark of 44 runs in the fifth.
Gerardo Parra, Ryan Braun and Adam Lind have been particularly impressive during the team’s first-inning hot streak. They’ve combined to go 18-for-36 (.500) with four home runs, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored and three doubles.
Parra has jump-started the Brewers with three leadoff home runs, to go along with a pair of singles and a double. Braun hasn’t produced as many runs, but has six hits in 12 at-bats, with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Lind has gone 6-for-10 with a two-run homer, two doubles, six RBIs and two runs scored.
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First-inning run production leading to wins is hardly surprising. But what makes the Brewers’ recent stretch impressive is the extended nature of the production.
Eleven times in two weeks they have scored in the first inning. Six of those innings featured multiple runs and 10 had multiple hits, including a six-run outburst on June 26, in which they went 6-for-11 with a home run, double and four singles.
This rate of production is hardly sustainable, but it does offer one clear takeaway. The earlier the Brewers score, the better their odds of winning.
Sounds simple enough, right?
You don’t hear a lot about Will Smith, and that’s a good thing.
Last time the Milwaukee Brewers reliever made headlines, he had been ejected May 21 in Atlanta for using a foreign substance. Since finding himself in the middle of that controversy, the lefty has fallen back off the radar.
Like many unheralded positions in sports, you typically can tell how well relief pitchers are doing by how little you hear about them. Smith, in his relative obscurity, has been dominant once again in the first half of this season.
Over his last 17 games, which dates back to that same Braves series, Smith has tossed 162/3 scoreless innings, striking out 21 batters while allowing just 10 hits and five walks. Though three of his seven inherited runners have scored over the same stretch, opponents have hit just .172/.238/.190 against him.
Smith has recorded multiple strikeouts on seven occasions during his scoreless streak, including a three-strikeout inning on May 23, his first appearance following the ejection.
For the season, Smith has not allowed a run 33 times in 36 appearances. He’s given up four earned runs on 18 hits over 291/3 innings for a 1.23 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 11 walks. His ERA leads all Brewers pitchers with five or more appearances this season, and his 4-0 mark also is the team’s best.
Smith was similarly strong last season through the end of June, before the heavy workload started to take its toll. He has been used slightly less in 2015, having pitched in 36 games compared with 44 at this time a year ago.
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Over the final three months of 2014, Smith had a 7.27 ERA, giving up 21 earned runs on 28 hits in 26 innings. His struggles over those 34 appearances derailed what began as an all-star caliber season for the lefty.
In the first three months of the last two seasons, Smith has pitched in 80 games, tossing 69 innings and giving up just 10 earned runs for a 1.30 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP. He’s also recorded 88 strikeouts against 28 walks, while allowing just nine of 39 inherited runners to score.
How Smith will fare over the final three-plus months this season remains to be seen. But he’s proven his first three months in Milwaukee were no fluke.
Can he sustain it over the course of an entire season?