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  • Grading the Brewers - The Infield (Pt 1)


    Kyle Ginsbach

    The Brewers Infield has had its ups and downs, but with some key contributors now healthy, we should see some of these grades go up over the second half of this year. But for now, let us know if they match yours.

    Image courtesy of © Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

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    The MLB season has reached its halfway point. With the All-Star break and the festivities taking the full front of attention, it may be time to take a break from the fun and reflect on the first half of the season. Like a teacher handing out the dreaded report card, it's time to see how the Brewers fared in half number one.

    Before jumping into the grading breakdown, it's important to lay some guidelines. Grading is based on the players performance through the first 93 games of the 2022 season. Listed with the given grades is the players slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) as of July 18, and either their OAA (Outs Above Average) or percentile grades in pitch framing. The grades are also based on both the offensive and defensive value the players should have been reasonably expected to provide, and is completely subjective. The purpose of the grades are simply to reflect, and not to promote any distaste towards any certain player.

    Rowdy Tellez * .227/.305/.458 * -3 OAA * First Base
    Grade: B+

    Rowdy Tellez’s first season as the Brewers' full-time first basemen has been filled with plenty of excitement. Tellez’s calling card is his power, and with 18 big-flies on his ledger, it’s fair to say Rowdy’s performed up to expectations. Though both his average and on-base numbers have dipped over the past month, there is no sign of a permanent slow down for Tellez going forward.

    In fact, in the month of July, despite hitting a mere .148, Tellez’s K% remains under 20% and his .122 BABIP may help explain his recent offensive struggles. As a defender, it’s not surprising the advanced metrics aren’t a fan of Tellez, but his defense has been good enough not to generate any widespread complaints.

    It remains to be seen what kind of numbers Tellez will put up by year's end, or even if Tellez will continue to get the chance to continue to play every day. Should the Brewers stick with Tellez, and they should, fans shouldn’t be surprised if Tellez continues his hitting ways throughout the rest of the season.

    Kolten Wong *.227/.313/.382 * -9 OAA * Second Base
    Grade: D

    It’s quietly been a brutal season for Kolten Wong. Wong has seen a fairly sizable dip in his offensive production, and has fallen out of his usual leadoff spot in favor of Christian Yelich . Most notably though, Wong’s seen his defensive value plummet. Usually a gold glove contender, Wong is having his worst defensive season ever. His -9 outs above average ranks him at the 3rd worst defender in the league, a difference of 11 outs from his previous year.

    Given Wong has been below average in pretty much every asset of the game, it was hard to give him a respectable grade. He may have his nagging calf injury to blame, and with a track record of better performance, Wong will probably, and hopefully, be better in the second half.

    Willy Adames * .220/.294/.477 * 7 OAA * Shortstop
    Grade: B+

    Although Adames may not be putting up the offensive numbers he did in his first season in Milwaukee, he’s still been one of the Brewers most valuable players. His 19 home runs not only leads the Brewers, but it leads all National League shortstops as well. Despite not getting many hits to fall, he still leads the team in slugging, tied with Hunter Renfroe.

    But even given his offensive production, the value most worth mentioning is his defense. Adames is currently tied for the team lead in OAA with Jace Peterson, and he’s done it playing a premium position.

    Looking forward towards the second half, fans shouldn’t be surprised if Adames goes on a tear. All advanced metrics point to an uptick in offensive production, and if Adames’ defense stays elite, Adames will once again end the season as one of the Brewers best position pieces.

    Luis Urias * .223/.314/.384 * -6 OAA * Third Base
    Grade: C

    Urias began the season on the IL with a quad injury before joining the Brewers as the regular third basemen. His bat has been streaky so far, but despite his unexciting slash line, Urias has still managed to pop 10 home runs. That being said, the Brewers expect more from Urias.

    Urias is expected to be the third baseman of the future, and he still hasn’t solidified that role over any other options on the team. As for his defense, his defense has been poor by OAA standards, but fans who watched Urias play last year will tell you his defense looks much improved. It is also worth mentioning he has spent time playing 2B, SS, and 3B this year, so some inconsistency is expected.

    Urias will need to boost his offensive production in the second half if the Brewers are aiming to improve their offense from within. His 97 WRC+ is just below average, and if the Brewers want to see more runs across the plate, Urias is one of the players that needs to, and can, be better.

    Now it's your turn. Are the grades fair? Would you give extra credit or demerits to some of the players? If so, let's hear it in the comments below. 

     

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    Don't take this the wrong way but the grades are beyond generous. Rowdy with his .305 OBP and below average defense deserves at best a C and no way a B+.

    If Wong doesn't get an F I don't know who would but I won't argue too much with a D. I like Adames and appreciate the power and defense but I can't give a grade higher than a C for a player with a .220 average and OBP below .300. Urias deserves a D as he should be a high average, high OBP guy and he has been neither.

    The infield as a whole deserves a D as not one of these guys has outperformed and Wong in particular has been completely awful.

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    4 hours ago, brewers888 said:

    Don't take this the wrong way but the grades are beyond generous.

    You're probably right. 

    I did debate going the pessimistic route, but decided against it. The offense hasn't been nearly as bad as people make it out to be, (Brewers rank in the top half in pretty much every major offensive category) so I wanted the grades to try to reflect that.

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    10 minutes ago, Kyle Ginsbach said:

    I did debate going the pessimistic route, but decided against it. 

    Why is it pessimistic to be less generous?  I don't think the grades should be as low as brewers888 suggested, but I think a half grade lower across the board isn't pessimistic. Also, part of the current problem with baseball is that there are so many teams in tanking/rebuilding mode (the "Have Nots").  Shouldn't the Brewers be in the "Have's" group?  I think the frustration with this offense is that it's at the bottom of the Have's and those teams are the ones that are going to be advancing in the playoffs at the expense of the Brewers. 

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    19 minutes ago, Kyle Ginsbach said:

    You're probably right. 

    I did debate going the pessimistic route, but decided against it. The offense hasn't been nearly as bad as people make it out to be, (Brewers rank in the top half in pretty much every major offensive category) so I wanted the grades to try to reflect that.

    How dare you fray from the "offense=bad" path...

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    Just grading the starters? I would argue that Jace Peterson is effectively a starter and should get a grade of around B+/A- with the defensive value he has provided this year alongside a solid batting line. As such, I'm hoping they make him the regular 3B against RHP while moving Urias to 2B and benching Wong. 

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    58 minutes ago, Brewcrew82 said:

    Just grading the starters? I would argue that Jace Peterson is effectively a starter and should get a grade of around B+/A- with the defensive value he has provided this year alongside a solid batting line. As such, I'm hoping they make him the regular 3B against RHP while moving Urias to 2B and benching Wong. 

    This is a good point. When talking about the way modern rosters are constructed, ten players is kinda the positional bare minimum but I would probably argue to grade a full 12 players (1 UTIL, 4th OF, 2nd C). Given the flexibility of modern lineup construction and the plethora of injuries in the modern game, a team could have a very good starting "nine" but still be pretty crappy due to the back-end of the roster being atrocious while consuming up to 20% of team PAs.

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    2 hours ago, NBBrewFan said:

    Why is it pessimistic to be less generous?  I don't think the grades should be as low as brewers888 suggested, but I think a half grade lower across the board isn't pessimistic. Also, part of the current problem with baseball is that there are so many teams in tanking/rebuilding mode (the "Have Nots").  Shouldn't the Brewers be in the "Have's" group?  I think the frustration with this offense is that it's at the bottom of the Have's and those teams are the ones that are going to be advancing in the playoffs at the expense of the Brewers. 

     The "pessimistic" route was more along the lines of nobody getting above a C. That mindset is more along the lines of "everyone's bad because they're not an All-Star" type thinking, which no one has come close to suggesting. 

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    5 hours ago, Kyle Ginsbach said:

    You're probably right. 

    I did debate going the pessimistic route, but decided against it. The offense hasn't been nearly as bad as people make it out to be, (Brewers rank in the top half in pretty much every major offensive category) so I wanted the grades to try to reflect that.

    I’m not going to quibble about specific grades because they are so subjective and depend so much on what the baseline is.
     

    You say that you based these on what could reasonably be expected from a player, and that’s fine. Presumably if you based the grade on a league average, or what a playoff contending team should be striving to get from that position, the grades would be different. If you expect a player to be average for his position, and his actual performance is average, that would be a C in my book. And that would leave the Brewers with a lot of C’s.

    The Brewers being in the top half of the league in most offensive categories is great if your goal is to have an average team or if you expect the pitching to be so exceptional that it can lift an average offensive team to one of the top playoff positions.

    The comments about the “offense is so bad” narrative seem to miss what that “narrative” really is. The offense was a question mark coming into the season and it’s hard to identify many players who have exceeded their expectations. And the troubling thing is that the offense has been progressively slipping as the season has progressed. If the performance in the games following the 19 run outburst in Pittsburgh are a sign of things to come, the Brewers have a real problem.

     

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    2 hours ago, Kyle Ginsbach said:

     The "pessimistic" route was more along the lines of nobody getting above a C. That mindset is more along the lines of "everyone's bad because they're not an All-Star" type thinking, which no one has come close to suggesting. 

    If you have an OBP around .300 you don't get higher than a C in my view.

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    20 minutes ago, brewers888 said:

    If you have an OBP around .300 you don't get higher than a C in my view.

    Other stats like defense and OPS relative to position matter a heck of a lot, too. See Adames, who has been one of the best SS in the NL this year despite a lower than hoped for OBP. 

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    1 hour ago, brewers888 said:

    If you have an OBP around .300 you don't get higher than a C in my view.

    Byron Buxton has an OPS under .300.

    He's also the fourth most valuable CF in baseball according to FanGraphs.

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    27 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    Byron Buxton has an OPS under .300.

    He's also the fourth most valuable CF in baseball according to FanGraphs.

    Thats fair enough because Buxton is a gold glove caliber center fielder but my comment was about Tellez who is bad defensively and isn't getting on base.

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    1 hour ago, brewers888 said:

    Thats fair enough because Buxton is a gold glove caliber center fielder but my comment was about Tellez who is bad defensively and isn't getting on base.

    For sure, it's going to be extremely hard for a lumbering first baseman to be valuable if his OPS is under .800, even in this depressed offensive game.

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    I don’t know what stats anyone would want to use to put an objective measure to it, but how would we compare the performance of the Brewers infield to the infields of the other NL playoff contenders?

    Position by position, I don’t think it would stack up very well, especially against the top teams (Dodgers, Mets, and Braves) and the Cardinals

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    13 hours ago, brewers888 said:

    These grades are obviously all subjective but this infield as a whole just hasn't played well at all.

    Agreed.  I think Urias in particular has been awful along with Wong and I'd give him no better than a D.  

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    I don't agree with the statement that Tellez "performed up to expectations" but he has also been a bit unlucky. Certainly hasn't played at a B+ level but I expect an uptick in the second half. Agree that Peterson should be on here, has played 80 games and probably the most valuable position player of the first half. Hopefully he doesn't disappear like he did last September. Overall the infield has underperformed as a whole but there is reason to believe the second half will be better.

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