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  • Brewers Whiff at Deadline Without Adding a Hitter


    Tim Muma

    The MLB trade deadline is often exciting and chaotic, but it's entirely disappointing for some teams. With one of the top rotations in baseball and a deep bullpen, the Milwaukee Brewers approached the deadline needing offensive consistency. They failed the fans by adding zero bats to the roster, a ridiculous and almost unacceptable result.

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    At a glance, it appears the Brewers' offense isn't a concern at all. Milwaukee entered play Tuesday ranked 7th in MLB in scoring at 4.65 runs/game. They're 8th in OPS+ (106) and OBP (.320), which likely would surprise most fans. And yet, each night, it feels like a toss-up if the offense will actually show up. David Stearns, President of Baseball Operations, recently told reporters he was comfortable with their hitters.

    "And so if we are going to do something that impacts our position player group, it may require some level of creativity or some complementary piece. Or we may decide that ultimately what we have right now is better than what we can get elsewhere."

    Despite the surface-level stats favoring Stearns' comments, the lineup has holes, lacks depth, and always relies on hoping certain guys reach their supposed ceilings. A prime example of Milwaukee's issues showed up Tuesday night in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Trailing by a pair in the 7th inning with the tying runs aboard, Craig Counsell pinch-hit for his number three and five hitters in Rowdy Tellez and Kolten Wong. Not exactly a sign of confidence when you remove two of your middle-of-the-order hitters. How often are teams taking out their three and five guys because of a platoon disadvantage? That inherently tells you the lineup has plenty of room for improvement.

    Compounding the issue, Wong was replaced by Pedro Severino, the third catcher on the club. If you're going to pinch-hit in the five-hole in a high leverage situation, your backup to your backup catcher shouldn't be part of the plan. If that is how they "drew it up," then the Brewers will need a lot of help from luck and randomness to make a postseason run.

    How can Milwaukee's front office believe this offense is set? There are clear areas where the Brewers could improve without selling the farm for top talent. There are several things to consider:

    • Milwaukee currently has a four-man bench, with two of those position players being catchers.
    • The Brewers have the 6th-worst OPS (.663) and 5th-lowest SLG (.357) versus left-handed pitchers.
    • Wong has a terrible .127/.238/.127/.365 line against lefty pitching this season.
    • Tellez owns a .324 SLG and .626 OPS versus southpaws in 2022.
    • Until his recent hot streak, Luis Urias was an up-and-down hitter with a .379 SLG and .690 OPS.

    These issues show that Milwaukee easily has at least two spots they could fill with a relevant hitter. No one is talking about a top position player, but guys that fill a need. First of all, they could have benefitted greatly from a right-handed infielder who could compete for time with Urias at third base and get starts over Wong against lefties. A guy like Brandon Drury (1.016 OPS versus left-handers this season) would have been a perfect fit. He ended up in San Diego for an 18-year-old shortstop.

    Tellez could also use a right-handed complement. Josh Bell and Trey Mancini were dealt on Tuesday. While their asset cost may have been higher, they both would have been an upgrade as a 1B/DH and pinch-hitter against lefties like the Brewers needed Tuesday. Is keeping another mid-level prospect going to make or break the farm system?

    And how about a left-handed outfield stick to counter the three non-Christian Yelich outfielders? A couple of these guys were moved a few days earlier (David Peralta, Tyler Naquin), and a handful of other teams had available players. None of these players could have cost much. It wouldn't have been a center field solution by any means, but it would have created more options and matchups, which Counsell and Milwaukee love.

    Even looking at it from a practical standpoint should have screamed "must add bats" as the clock ticked down. Having only four bench players - with only two of them non-catchers - again fails to take advantage of platoon strategies that the Brewers are built around. Not only should Milwaukee have a fifth position player as a sub, but they should also have a legitimate option that isn't primarily a catcher. This deadline was the ideal opportunity to build up their bench and strategic choices, but instead, the Brewers did nothing. Especially since there are no longer waiver-wire trades after the deadline, Milwaukee has put itself in a precarious position with its depth. If they suffer an injury or two to the position player group, the Brewers would need to rely on rookies and inexperienced minor leaguers who are likely unprepared for prime-time games. 

    For a team with postseason and World Series aspirations, it's incredibly frustrating that the Brewers did not improve one iota offensively at the trade deadline. Fans can hope that one or two current players take a step forward and lead the lineup to consistent success. However, all signs point to another season of needing a lot of luck to score enough runs against the best teams in the league.

     

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    Well said. There HAD to be a hitter available somewhere that could make this team better without breaking open the farm system. To suggest this team is fine without one more decent bat and good on-base skills is trying to sell the fanbase a line.

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    "Compounding the issue, Wong was replaced by Pedro Severino, the third catcher on the club. If you're going to pinch-hit in the five-hole in a high leverage situation, your backup to your backup catcher shouldn't be part of the plan. If that is how they "drew it up," then the Brewers will need a lot of help from luck and randomness to make a postseason run."

    Wong has a 365 OPS vs LHP this year, and a devilish 666 OPS vs LHP over the last three seasons.

    Severino has a 639 OPS vs LHP this year (only 17 PAs) and a 769 OPS vs LHP over the last three seasons.

    Third catcher or not, Severino has a better track record vs LHP than Wong.

    The only two "needle mover" bats on the market got dealt to the Padres in the same trade. Mancini isn't a clear upgrade over Tellez/McCutchen, Benintendi isn't a CF. Drury would have been fine depth, but Brosseau has a 134 OPS+ in that role already, kind of hard to improve on that from your backup IF.

    Would I have preferred for Stearns & company to upgrade the offense? Of course. But I also understand that based on how the market shook out there was limited opportunity to do so & the best they realistically could have done was an Escobar type move that increases the depth, but doesn't really impact the top end at all.

    Even the Padres, who acquired the two best hitters on the market in Soto & Bell, will be "needing a lot of luck to score enough runs against the best teams in the league." Their most bullish post-deadline World Series odds of 9.6% at FanGraphs (only 2% on 538 and 5.1% on PECOTA) are still solidly behind the Dodgers (15.8%), Mets (14.0%), Braves (12.0%) in the NL and the Astros (15.1%) and Yankees (11.0%) in the AL.

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    1 hour ago, sveumrules said:

    "Compounding the issue, Wong was replaced by Pedro Severino, the third catcher on the club. If you're going to pinch-hit in the five-hole in a high leverage situation, your backup to your backup catcher shouldn't be part of the plan. If that is how they "drew it up," then the Brewers will need a lot of help from luck and randomness to make a postseason run."

    Wong has a 365 OPS vs LHP this year, and a devilish 666 OPS vs LHP over the last three seasons.

    Severino has a 639 OPS vs LHP this year (only 17 PAs) and a 769 OPS vs LHP over the last three seasons.

    Third catcher or not, Severino has a better track record vs LHP than Wong.

    I don't think the point is that Wong is better than Severino, the problem lies in using a backup catcher to pinch-hit for anyone in the middle of your lineup, ever. That speaks to depth, or the lack thereof.

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    Tim Muma
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    1 hour ago, sveumrules said:

    "Compounding the issue, Wong was replaced by Pedro Severino, the third catcher on the club. If you're going to pinch-hit in the five-hole in a high leverage situation, your backup to your backup catcher shouldn't be part of the plan. If that is how they "drew it up," then the Brewers will need a lot of help from luck and randomness to make a postseason run."

    Wong has a 365 OPS vs LHP this year, and a devilish 666 OPS vs LHP over the last three seasons.

    Severino has a 639 OPS vs LHP this year (only 17 PAs) and a 769 OPS vs LHP over the last three seasons.

    Third catcher or not, Severino has a better track record vs LHP than Wong.

    The only two "needle mover" bats on the market got dealt to the Padres in the same trade. Mancini isn't a clear upgrade over Tellez/McCutchen, Benintendi isn't a CF. Drury would have been fine depth, but Brosseau has a 134 OPS+ in that role already, kind of hard to improve on that from your backup IF.

    Would I have preferred for Stearns & company to upgrade the offense? Of course. But I also understand that based on how the market shook out there was limited opportunity to do so & the best they realistically could have done was an Escobar type move that increases the depth, but doesn't really impact the top end at all.

    Even the Padres, who acquired the two best hitters on the market in Soto & Bell, will be "needing a lot of luck to score enough runs against the best teams in the league." Their most bullish post-deadline World Series odds of 9.6% at FanGraphs (only 2% on 538 and 5.1% on PECOTA) are still solidly behind the Dodgers (15.8%), Mets (14.0%), Braves (12.0%) in the NL and the Astros (15.1%) and Yankees (11.0%) in the AL.

    Like Brock said, it isn't about the pure numbers. You know who would have great to use as a pinch-hitter for Wong if that is the right play...Brandon Drury!

    Here's the thing:  The Brewers built their offense around platoons/matchups/utility. So if you are going to do that, then you can NEVER have enough guys that give you advantages on the margins. For example, they continue to stink against LHP in general. McCutchen hasn't done the job against lefties...nor Tellez...nor Adames...which means you have room to add at LEAST one bat.

    Brosseau is that perfect example...and you need to have as many options like that as possible, If you are going to be the team to pinch-hit for your THREE and FIVE hitters, your second option has to be better than Pedro Severino, a third catcher on a FOUR-MAN BENCH! I obviously hope it all works out and the offense is more consistently good than bad, but I just don't understand how they didn't grab even one bat.

     

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    I suspect that Stearns is less than enamored with the bullpen right now, and he's not entirely wrong. They're a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of pitching in the NL.

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    31 minutes ago, Tim Muma said:

    Like Brock said, it isn't about the pure numbers. You know who would have great to use as a pinch-hitter for Wong if that is the right play...Brandon Drury!

    Here's the thing:  The Brewers built their offense around platoons/matchups/utility. So if you are going to do that, then you can NEVER have enough guys that give you advantages on the margins. For example, they continue to stink against LHP in general. McCutchen hasn't done the job against lefties...nor Tellez...nor Adames...which means you have room to add at LEAST one bat.

    Brosseau is that perfect example...and you need to have as many options like that as possible, If you are going to be the team to pinch-hit for your THREE and FIVE hitters, your second option has to be better than Pedro Severino, a third catcher on a FOUR-MAN BENCH! I obviously hope it all works out and the offense is more consistently good than bad, but I just don't understand how they didn't grab even one bat.

    A great example of this is what the Twins have done (when relatively healthy). Baldelli has several good left-handed hitters (as do the Brewers) so he often intentionally stacks them in a row. He *dares* the opposing manager to pull in a LHP to face Luis Arraez or Max Kepler or Nick Gordon.

    Why? Because Baldelli has Kyle Garlick sitting on the bench most games, just waiting to unleash his .900-something OPS against LHP against any manager who tries to break up the lefties.

    A natural result of doing this is managers tend to NOT put in a LHP early, which in turn gives Baldelli the platoon advantage for his lefties longer into games.

    If a team is going to play platoon-happy - and I think it's the best strategy in modern baseball given the massive pitching advantage right now - the front office needs to give their manager proper platoon bats to exploit those matchups.

    And the Brewers front office didn't do that yesterday. I don't care WHO they acquired but they needed something to give Counsell the ability to more effectively manage his roster on a daily basis. Counsell is a really good manager, he's going to get something approaching the best out of his players most of the time if you give him the right tools to do it.

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    damuelle
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
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    I'd have been fine with Whit Merrifield even - .266 BABIP this year is weighing him down. Versatile player who could start at second base against lefties and then move around or pinch hit when facing righties.

    Getting four bullpen arms (Rogers, Bush, Rosenthal, Lamet) to replace one (Hader) felt like overkill (or an attempt to prove to the fans or the manager that the loss of Hader shouldn't be used as an excuse), as I actually like the rest of our bullpen guys.

    Well, we the fans felt the team needed a right-handed hitter (first baseman, second baseman or third baseman) or a switch-hitter (centerfielder or infielder). If the offense falters in the same predictable way that it did in 2014, we will grumble about it until the franchise wins a World Series.

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    And to be clear, I'm not even saying the front office failed at the deadline. I think they did some interesting stuff and gave them a C+ grade.

    But that's still only a C+... because they didn't find some way to get another bat on this roster.

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    24 minutes ago, yourout said:

    The fact that they have 3 catchers and none of them are particularly good and no centerfielder is managerial misconduct.

    I read this as "The fact that they have 3 catchers and none of them are particularly good in centerfield" and literally LOLed.

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    37 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    And to be clear, I'm not even saying the front office failed at the deadline. I think they did some interesting stuff and gave them a C+ grade.

    But that's still only a C+... because they didn't find some way to get another bat on this roster.

    Agree. I gave them A "C". The more I hear about Ruiz the more I like him. We just don't know if he'll pay dividends in the next two months.

    Tim spelled it out well when he pointed out what happened last night. Tellez & Wong need to be hit for late vs LHP when you're trailing? OK, so be it. But then you can't afford to have the 3 catchers. Like I said in another thread, this 80-game thing with Severino screwed up the roster royally. It wasn't some one-or-two-week thing, so they felt they needed to go get someone. And with Narvaez hitting FA they want to keep all three. Of course, you also have to have 37 guys in your bullpen (slight exaggeration?). It's just a real dis-jointed roster. I would've loved Drury. The 18-yr-old SS, I know nothing about him but he was the Padres' #6 prospect. Not sure how that equates to our system but it tells me the price probably would've been too high for our taste. Certainly there were other possibilities; I'd love to know what some of the offers were/would've needed to be.

    Too late now. We need Adames & Urias to give us more, Wong to keep hitting, and anyone not on the current roster giving us a boost has to be named Ruiz or Frelick. Oh, and the pitching & run-prevention aspect has to hold up it's end better.

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    Who has high expectations of the Brewers slugging out 3 solo HRs versus the Dodgers, Padres, Mets, and Braves pitching staffs in October? This is not a lineup that can be expected to do much when you face playoff teams' top 3 starters and best bullpen arms.

    Tim, you're right. It is an unaccepted outcome to not add at least one bat when this franchise possesses the kind of pitching it is near impossible for a small market to assemble for a sustained period of time. And it only took a few hours for the glaring deadline mistake to bear out when a 3rd catcher was batting with 2 outs and the bases loaded, in a game the team was down 2 runs. Unacceptable.

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    33 minutes ago, Soupbone said:

    And after all of that they DFA Severino. Didn’t they know that before the deadline?

    A baffling set of moves today. It doesn't inspire confidence in a front office I had quite a lot of confidence in a couple of days ago.

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    42 minutes ago, Soupbone said:

    And after all of that they DFA Severino. Didn’t they know that before the deadline?

    We've seen many examples over the years that this is a "stay the course, big picture" type of organization. It's served them well overall. In this case, they wanted to somehow, someway at least get to September 1st w/o having to make a move on any of these catchers. Then you have a couple extra roster spots to play with & keeping them all is less cumbersome. It's like last nights' AB by Severino was the last straw. They're showing some urgency, which is interesting because it's so unlike their usual MO.

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    I agree wholeheartedly with 2 main points:

    1. The Brewers offense is less potent or reliable than indicated by the raw runs per game number. I have raised this more than once on the ongoing thread about the offense. The Brewers run production has been propped up by runs scored against the weakest teams in the league, including some games with extremely high run totals in single games against the Reds and Pirates. I understand that it should be expected that teams will score more against better teams and better pitchers. But, I have presented evidence that the gap between the Brewers R/G against weak teams as compared to R/G against better teams is much greater than the gap for other playoff contenders. IMHO this leads to a legitimate concern that the offense will really have trouble scoring against the best pitchers on the teams they would be facing in the playoffs.

    2. I recognize that it was going to be difficult for the Brewers to obtain a real impact bat that would significantly improve the offense. part of the problem is the price to acquire and pay the very top talents (like Soto) and the fact that the Brewers are loaded with average hitters, so the upgrade in obtaining a slightly above average hitter might not be that great. In that case, it still would have made sense to acquire a right handed hitter who would offer a better option than Severino or Davis if they wanted to pinch it for Wong or Tellez. That could have been done without coming close to "mortgaging the team's future". I've seen enough cases of players like Randy Ready, Matt LaPorta, Louis Brinson, et al who produced wails of despair when traded but never became impact major leaguers.

    I fully expected a deal like the Bush deal to prop up the setup portion of the bullpen. The Brewers do that every year and this team needed it. But, I look at exchanging Hader for Rogers to be a more significant downgrade than others seem to unless we assumed that Hader's recent troubles are a sign from a permanent fall from his position as the recognized best closer in MLB. And I don't see the erratic Lamet or the injured Rosenthal offering anything that will help this year's team.

    Maybe the prospects obtained in the Hader trade will make this a great trade when looked at a few years from now. But for this season I see the Brewers moves as signaling that they recognize that winning the weak Central Division is probably the team's ceiling for this year. Even that may be tougher than it looked as the deadline approached.

    ETA: I did not realize when I posted this that Lamet had already been DFA. So, as it affects the team this year, the Brewers traded Hader for Rogers. 

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    15 hours ago, BruisedCrew said:

    I agree wholeheartedly with 2 main points:

    1. The Brewers offense is less potent or reliable than indicated by the raw runs per game number. I have raised this more than once on the ongoing thread about the offense. The Brewers run production has been propped up by runs scored against the weakest teams in the league, including some games with extremely high run totals in single games against the Reds and Pirates. I understand that it should be expected that teams will score more against better teams and better pitchers. But, I have presented evidence that the gap between the Brewers R/G against weak teams as compared to R/G against better teams is much greater than the gap for other playoff contenders. IMHO this leads to a legitimate concern that the offense will really have trouble scoring against the best pitchers on the teams they would be facing in the playoffs.

    2. I recognize that it was going to be difficult for the Brewers to obtain a real impact bat that would significantly improve the offense. part of the problem is the price to acquire and pay the very top talents (like Soto) and the fact that the Brewers are loaded with average hitters, so the upgrade in obtaining a slightly above average hitter might not be that great. In that case, it still would have made sense to acquire a right handed hitter who would offer a better option than Severino or Davis if they wanted to pinch it for Wong or Tellez. That could have been done without coming close to "mortgaging the team's future". I've seen enough cases of players like Randy Ready, Matt LaPorta, Louis Brinson, et al who produced wails of despair when traded but never became impact major leaguers.

    I fully expected a deal like the Bush deal to prop up the setup portion of the bullpen. The Brewers do that every year and this team needed it. But, I look at exchanging Hader for Rogers to be a more significant downgrade than others seem to unless we assumed that Hader's recent troubles are a sign from a permanent fall from his position as the recognized best closer in MLB. And I don't see the erratic Lamet or the injured Rosenthal offering anything that will help this year's team.

    Maybe the prospects obtained in the Hader trade will make this a great trade when looked at a few years from now. But for this season I see the Brewers moves as signaling that they recognize that winning the weak Central Division is probably the team's ceiling for this year. Even that may be tougher than it looked as the deadline approached.

    ETA: I did not realize when I posted this that Lamet had already been DFA. So, as it affects the team this year, the Brewers traded Hader for Rogers. 

    I would highly expect Ruiz to be up shortly. 

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    12 minutes ago, Ron Robinsons Beard said:

    I would highly expect Ruiz to be up shortly. 

    I don’t follow the minor leaguers. Is there anything in his background that suggests that he would be likely to provide immediate value to a major league team other than as a bench player? With very little MLB experience would he be an upgrade over Davis?

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    32 minutes ago, BruisedCrew said:

    I don’t follow the minor leaguers. Is there anything in his background that suggests that he would be likely to provide immediate value to a major league team other than as a bench player? With very little MLB experience would he be an upgrade over Davis?

    The Davis/Taylor CF we currently have certainly isn't setting the world on fire. And considering Ruiz has put up an OPS of 1.033 to go along with 13 HRs and 60 (!!!) SBs in 380 plate appearances in AA and AAA this season, I think it would be a safe assumption that he would be an improvement in CF for the Brewers. He has had 27 MLB ABs this season, and hasn't shown much at the MLB level yet. But he has been by all accounts one of the minor leagues' biggest breakout stars this season.

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    I looked up Ruiz’s record, and it seems like a risk taking a player with just 29 games in AAA and 14 with the Padres and tossing him into CF in the middle of a playoff race. Maybe he would start producing immediately or maybe he would struggle like some highly touted prospects like Jarred Kelenic who hits well in AAA but has been a complete bust so far in two stints with the Mariners. The Brewers would be better off with Taylor’s production than something like that.

    I am not excited about the stolen bases in the short term. So far this year he is 60 for 71 in the minors, and I would expect that it’s harder to steal in MLB. If that success rate drops much it becomes more of a negative than a positive. 

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