No one in Milwaukee has benefited more from Gerardo Parra’s departure than Khris Davis.
In the month of August, he’s been crushing the ball, hitting nine home runs, achieving something no Brewers player had since September 2011. Prince Fielder hit nine that month, and 10 in June 2011, while Ryan Braun had 10 in April 2011. Since, the club hadn’t seen a hitter with more than eight homers in a single month.
Braun hit eight in three different months (May, June and August) of 2012, while Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks had eight apiece in August and September in 2012, respectively. While Fielder’s 13-homer May 2007 likely is out of reach, Davis still has a few days to put up the Brewers’ first 11-home run month since 2009.
Davis’ big month has been powered by three multi-homer games. The last Brewers player with three in a month was Braun in May 2008.
Starting every game since July 30, Davis has been one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters over the last three weeks after struggling to open the second half. Davis batted just .160/.246/.240 from July 10 through Aug. 4, hitting one home run with seven RBIs and nearly three times as many strikeouts (22) as hits (8). Over the next 17 games, he hit .274/.333/.742 with 15 runs scored, 17 hits and 19 RBIs.
Though the pace is clearly unsustainable, Davis’ performance over that stretch translates to 86 home runs and 182 RBIs over 162 games.
Davis continues to strike out a lot — 27 times in the first 22 games this month — but you’re going to have that with any power hitter. The key is for Davis to offset it with doubles and home runs. While the latter have been coming in bunches, the former remain few and fair between.
Among players with 16 or more home runs this season, only five — Luis Valbuena, Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Welington Castillo and Steven Souza — have fewer doubles than Davis’ 13. The leader among that group is Todd Frazier, with 38 doubles.
Still, given the chance to play every day, Davis is showing the value he can bring to the Brewers as a starter. It’s hard to keep that kind of power out of the lineup.
As longtime Brewers general manager Doug Melvin steps aside, let’s take a look at the best moves of his tenure.
Melvin made a number of blockbuster deals while in Milwaukee, including trades that brought CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke to town and others that sent Carlos Lee, Nelson Cruz and Brett Lawrie packing. Aside from a couple, there’s a fine line between his best moves and worst.
• Trading for CC Sabathia: This seems like a no-brainer, but at the time it looked like the Brewers had given up a lot for a rental. That was true, but in return they got one of the most dominant half seasons by any pitcher in the last decade. Sabathia went 9-2 with seven complete games and three shutouts over 17 starts for the Brewers, posting a 4.9 WAR.
While he may have run out of gas in the postseason, Sabathia undoubtedly carried the Brewers to the 2008 wild card. His celebration of the playoff-clinching out on Sept. 28, 2008, goes down as one of the most iconic images in franchise history.
• Trading for Zack Greinke: With as much as they gave up, you could make an argument for putting this trade in the worst moves category and you wouldn’t be wrong. But this was about winning now and Greinke gave the Brewers what they needed.
Greinke anchored the rotation and served as a much-needed ace for the Brewers. He helped lead Milwaukee to a franchise-record 96 wins and their first National League Central title. Though they fell short of the World Series, without Greinke that team may not have even made the playoffs.
• J.J. Hardy for Carlos Gomez trade: This looked like a perfect match for both sides, but in the end, the Brewers clearly got the better end of the deal. Hardy spent just one season with the Twins, posting a 1.3 WAR over 101 games. Gomez, on the other hand, filled a long-term need in Milwaukee.
He took some time to figure things out, but once he did Gomez became one of the best players in baseball. Over 51/2 seasons, Gomez posted a 19.9 WAR as a two-time all-star with the Brewers while playing gold-glove defense in center field.
• Signing Jeff Suppan: As good as Melvin was in trades, he didn’t enjoy nearly as much success in free-agent pitching signings. Suppan is the poster child for what can and often does go wrong when signing aging veteran starting pitchers. The Brewers needed someone to help bolster their rotation, but Suppan was not the way to go.
The only thing worse than his -0.7 WAR over over 110 games in four years is the fact the Brewers continued to send Suppan out there every fifth day for so long. Game 4 of the 2008 NLDS epitomizes the mistake that was the Suppan era in Milwaukee. With the Brewers facing elimination, Suppan got the start and lasted just three innings before giving up five runs.
• Trading away Carlos Lee/Nelson Cruz: For the most part, the criticism of this trade is unfairly based on the benefit of hindsight. With Cruz putting up 11.8 WAR over eight years for the Rangers, it looks like Melvin got absolutely fleeced in the deal. In reality, even the Rangers had little idea Cruz would would develop into the four-time all-star he has become.
The real problem was how much the Brewers overpaid for such a lackluster return. Closer Francisco Cordero was the best of their return that also included Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix. Selling rental players unlikely to re-sign doesn’t give a GM much leverage, but that doesn’t excuse giving up so much for so little in return.
• Hiring Ken Macha: After reaching the playoffs a year earlier, ‘09 and ‘10 were lost years for the Brewers, thanks in part to the hiring of Macha as manager. It’s hard to blame much of a team’s success or failure on the manager, but looking back it’s also hard not to wonder what might have been with someone else at the helm.
When the faces of the franchise — Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder — clash with the man in charge, it should come as no surprise that things don’t go well. Macha’s old-school, businesslike approach didn’t mix with the younger makeup of the club. Sure, the Brewers may not have had the pitching to contend during those years, but having Macha in charge didn’t help their cause.
Not trading with the New York Mets may prove to be the best move the Milwaukee Brewers made last week. But the moves they did make weren’t bad, either.
When the Mets decided against acquiring Carlos Gomez for Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, it opened the door for the Brewers to complete an even bigger — and better — deal, sending Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros. They got four top prospects in return, who rank second (Brett Phillips), fourth (Domingo Santana), 15th (Josh Hader) and 28th (Adrian Houser) on the Brewers’ top prospect list.
They followed that up by dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Baltimore Orioles for right-hander Zach Davies, who ranks 11th on the list, right behind 2014 first-round pick Kodi Medeiros. That’s four top-15 prospects acquired in less than 24 hours.
Phillips, a 21-year-old five-tool outfielder, ranks 39th overall in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. He was the Astros’ minor league player of the year last season and has started to show more power over the last two years. He’s having an excellent 2015 season, hitting .317/.377/.543 with 16 home runs, 71 RBIs and 15 stolen bases over 101 games at Classes A and AA. He could start in center field within a couple of years, or slide over to right field with his well-above-average arm.
Santana, a boom-or-bust-type power hitter, ranks 87th overall among MLB prospects and has enough raw power to drive the ball out of the park in any direction. He’s hitting .322/.424/.574 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs over 78 games at Class AAA. A likely September callup candidate, Santana also has a strong arm in the outfield.
In Hader, Davies and Houser, the Brewers brought in three starters that could be part of the rotation in the near future. None of them profile as front-of-the-rotation starters, but they could fit in well as Nos. 3, 4 or 5 starters, and add to a pretty good haul for general manager Doug Melvin and the Brewers.
In trading away Gomez, Fiers and Parra, they brought back five upper-level prospects that could be integral pieces of the team within a couple of years. Most important, they didn’t go for the quick fix.
Yes, they acquired players that are mostly just a year or two from the majors, but the Brewers showed they’re committed to a rebuild. These aren’t proven players they’re bringing back. These are high-upside prospects that they’ll look to develop into major league stars in the next couple years.
This team hasn’t been close to contending this season and likely won’t next year. But come 2017 or ’18, these deals could have them right back in the National League Central race.