The Milwaukee Brewers 2016 season was challenging. A 73-89 record saw them finish 30.5 games back of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. There were some great steps forward for this organisation and they went a respectable 5-5 in their last ten games of the season. Great teams are balanced both at the plate and on the mound. The Brewers have a solid group of position players that encompass what a balanced attack looks like. They’ll need to focus on bolstering their pitching staff this offseason if they want to be a formidable opponent in 2017.
Milwaukee Brewers 2016 Season Recap
The NL Central is a tough division. The Cubs had a 103-win season, and we all know how they finished it. The Brewers also have to compete with the St. Louis Cardinals, and, despite a poor season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are also a threat. The Brewers struggled with scoring runs and getting strikeouts. They ranked 25th in RBI with 641, 126 fewer than the Cubs. Their 1175 strikeouts were also at the bottom of the league, good for 28th; the Cubs had 1441. It may not be fair to compare the Brewers to the Cubs, but baseball isn’t always fair. If you want a shot at October and you play in the NL Central, that’s who you have to beat.
There were two areas in which the club did excel. The 2016 Brewers will go down as one of the fastest organisations in modern day baseball. Their 181 stolen bases led the majors by a long shot; the Cincinnati Reds 139 were second. Their team ERA was also tied for 12th, with the Cardinals, at 4.08. The speed game and stealing bases has become a lost art for many clubs, but the Brewers use it well. Successful teams use the weapons they have and the skills their current players possess. The Brewers are riddled with speed, so they’re going to use it. High risk, high reward, that’s how they will play in 2017.
Jonathan Villar has become one of the faces of this franchise and has shown he can play well at the plate. His glove needs work, as 29 errors will not cut it for an everyday shortstop. Twelve of those errors did happen while he was playing third base, but it is clear the Brewers plan to have him play shortstop long-term. He possesses all the components a franchise desires in a top-of-the-order bat. He had 19 home runs and 63 RBI, while also stealing 62 bases and maintaining a .285 average.
Where the ‘pop’ comes from is the duo of Chris Carter and Ryan Braun. These two combined for 71 home runs and 185 RBI this past season and will look to do even more damage in 2017. Braun had an MVP-caliber season with 30 home runs, 91 RBI, and a .305 average. It is no secret that nearly every manager in the league will give up average for power, but Braun is a special case. Carter is your typical power bat with his .222 average, but when you hit 41 home runs and drive in 94 runs, your skipper is going to let it slide.
Their rotation was a mess in 2016. They did not have a single starter pitch over 180.0 innings and, with the exception of Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, they all had ERAs over 4.00. Not a recipe for success. The 23-year-old Davies is starting to become a solid member of their rotation; not an ace, but solid number two or three. His 3.97 ERA jumps off the page compared to his that of his rotation mates, while his 163.1 innings and 135 Ks are merely respectable. Guerra was easily their best starter in 2016, despite only pitching 121.2 innings. His 2.81 ERA was impeccable and he will be key for the Brewers next season.
The bullpen has some bright spots in multiple strikeout-per-inning guys. Carlos Torres pitched the most of any reliever last season, with 82.1 innings and 78 strikeouts. Tyler Thornburg was the team’s best bullpen pitcher. He tossed 67.0 innings with 90 Ks, while maintaining a 2.15 ERA. He may be the team’s option at closer next season.
The Milwaukee Brewers 2016 season certainly did not end in a fashion any big league team would be satisfied with. The recipe for success in 2017 is simple: score more runs. Averaging four runs per game is not going to cut it. They need to stay true to themselves and utilize the tools they possess.