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Milwaukee Brewers: 2016 to 2011, Outfield Comparison

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With the goal of predicting when the Milwaukee Brewers will be a playoff ready team, we at Reviewing The Brew will compare the current status of the organization to the 2011 N.L. Central champs. Beginning with an analysis of the outfielders, we will determine if the team is “on the level,” “1-2 years away” or “3-5 years away.”

All statistics for this roster comparison are courtesy of fangraphs.com

Playing time for the 2011 outfield was primarily given to four players. The unit was led by N.L. MVP Ryan Braun (Left), Corey Hart (Right) and Nyjer Morgan (Center) sharing time with Carlos Gomez (Center). Players such as Mark Kotsay, Jerry Hairston, and Logan Schafer spent limited time in the outfield and will not factor into the decision.

As the N.L. MVP, Ryan Braun provided outstanding production with a slash line of (.332/.397,.597). Braun provided power and clutch hitting from the 3-hole, belting 33 HR’s, driving in 111 (RBI) and scoring 109 runs. Even though these numbers are tarnished by his use PED’s, the statistics give us insight into what it takes to be a playoff team. While not every playoff team has a player producing at an MVP level, there are few good teams without a quality run producing hitter. If the 2017-beyond Brewers are going to make the playoffs they will need someone to replicate or come close to a season like Braun’s.

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Another key contributor to the 2011 lineup was Corey Hart (.285,.356,.510). Hart’s 26 home runs provided an additional source of power, leading to 63 RBI’s and 80 runs scored. These numbers might have been even better if he hadn’t missed 32 games that year.

In center field, the Brewers used a platoon of Nyjer Morgan (.304,.357,.421) and Carlos Gomez (.225,.276,.403). Although T-Plush’s career quickly fizzled out after 2011, for that year he provided an exciting bat atop the order. While neither Morgan or Gomez provided any eye-popping numbers, collectively they hit 12 home runs, batted in 61 and scored times.

When the statistics of these four players are combined the Brewers 2011 outfield hit 71 home run’s, batted in 135 runs, scored 287 times and stole 69 bases. Together they batted .287 with an OBP of .307.

This information then leads to the question of, are the 2017 Brewers capable of producing at this level? If we are to assume the outfield will consist of a rotation including Ryan Braun, Lewis Brinson, Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton, the answer will point to “no.” Although this appears to be an exciting group of players, it is difficult to imagine Brinson, Santana and Broxton each producing at such a high level immediately. Combine this with Ryan Braun’s history of injury it seems unlikely the Brewers could match 2011 production.

Jul 20, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (10) and right fielder Hernan Perez (14) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Milwaukee won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) and center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (10) and right fielder Hernan Perez (14) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Milwaukee won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Even if we were to take inexperience out of the equation by substituting Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Hernan Perez for a young player, neither have proven they could match a Corey Hart like season. For Perez, it remains to be seen how he handles adjustments pitchers make upon multiple match ups.

So what would it take for the 2017 Brewers to replicate 2011 team’s production? First, Ryan Braun would need to stay healthy and continue to produce as he has this year. While it has been great to see Braun return to form, his health remains too much of a question mark to pencil him in for All-Star production next year. This would then require a breakout season from players such as Brinson, Broxton or Santana. Although certainly possible each of these players would be surrounded by uncertainty be it youth, talent or injury.

The good news is that if we look past the 2017 season and including highly rated prospect Brett Phillips to the equation, the Brewers will possess a rotation of outfielders with plenty of athleticism and power potential. Despite struggling to hit for average in AA Biloxi, Phillips has demonstrated his knack for the long ball by hitting 13 home runs thus far. Brinson, who also struggled to hit for average in AA, has caught fire at AAA Colorado Springs and now sits at 12 HRs for the season. Combine this with Domingo Santana’s combination of power and speed; it would seem the Brewers have the making of a strong outfield shortly.

What’s encouraging about this group of players is their potential to combine power and speed. If we see them make improvements to their BA and OBP, it would easy to 2011 outfield production return to Miller Park in 1-2 years.

Verdict: 1-2 years. 

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