The Milwaukee Brewers have been around the top of the NL Central for almost the entire season thanks to contributions from previously no-name players. These players may have put themselves in the conversation for awards this winter.
No one expected the Milwaukee Brewers to be where they currently are. That’s largely due to season long contributions from players like Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, and Manny Pina among others. This surprise performance could earn key contributors a chance at hardware when the season is done.
If you ask the players, the only award they’re concerned about is the Commissioner’s Trophy for winning the World Series, but there are other awards they can win. In fact, there are a couple of awards that could easily be handed out to some members of the Brew Crew.
NL Manager Of The Year
If the Milwaukee Brewers make the postseason, it’s easy to see Craig Counsell winning Manager of the Year for what he’s been able to do with this team. Las Vegas odds-makers projected the Crew to finish last in the division with an over/under of 69.5 wins.
As much as fans like to second guess Counsell’s strategies during the game, it’s hard to deny that he’s gotten a lot out of his players this year. Some fans think there’s more to get out of them, but baseball isn’t an exact science.
Getting this team of scrap heap pick ups and young prospects all the way to the postseason would be an incredible accomplishment. It would certainly put Counsell right in the thick of the Manager of the Year conversation. Of course the further they would get in the playoffs, the better his chances.
Trevor Hoffman NL Relief Man Of The Year
Closer Corey Knebel has been lights out all year long. In 68 innings, Knebel has logged 115 K’s with a 1.32 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Absolutely incredible. He didn’t allow a single run in the month of August en route to the August Reliever of the Month Award. He was the Milwaukee Brewers only All Star this year and he’s earned this award.
It’s going to be tough considering Kenley Jansen of the LA Dodgers has also had an incredible season. However, Knebel racked up 35 saves this year even though he didn’t take over the closer’s role until mid May.
Even when the Brewers bullpen was completely unreliable late in games, there was always one man that the Brewers could count on. And that man was Corey Knebel. The Crew wouldn’t be fighting for a playoff berth if it wasn’t for Knebel’s dominance this year.
NL Comeback Player Of The Year
Slugger Eric Thames seemed like a surefire winner of this award back in April. Since then, his batting average has regressed back to his career average. But he can still mash. 31 homers so far in his first season back in the Major Leagues after three years away is remarkable.
He’s had some big slumps, but he’s still getting used to the MLB grind once again. The issues with his legs and his need for time off seem like conditioning issues. The talent is there, he just needs to spend an off-season on the StairMaster.
Thames has been hot recently. One last burst to finish the season could put the bug in the ear of the voters. A big push at the end of the season would not only help Milwaukee secure a playoff spot, but Thames’ candidacy for Comeback Player of the Year.
Travis Shaw will not win NL MVP. There’s too much competition and Shaw hasn’t done enough to earn consideration as the best in the league. But is a Top-10 finish out of the question? I don’t think so.
Shaw was sent to Milwaukee as a “failed” prospect for Boston after a rough second half in 2016 led the Red Sox to give up on Shaw. They said he couldn’t hit lefties and needed a platoon, but the Milwaukee Brewers believed in him. It’s paid off so far.
While his .275 average isn’t exactly eye-popping, he’s put up 30 homers this season. Shaw’s closing in on 100 RBIs, needing only five more to reach the century mark. Shaw is also a doubles machine, hitting 31 this year. He’s managed to get on-base nearly 35% of the time.
If he can continue to carry this Brewers lineup through to the postseason, Shaw’s name will garner enough attention to finish in the top-10 in MVP voting this year. He’s been too important in this lineup to not get consideration.
There’s one candidate on the Brewers that’s so incredibly deserving of this award that it’s a shame if he won’t get it. It’s actually not Orlando Arcia, but Manny Pina that we’re talking about. Pina has been absolutely dynamite behind the plate for the Milwaukee Brewers this year.
The sad thing is, Manny Pina won’t win the Gold Glove despite performing like the best catcher in the NL. That’s because of one teeny tiny little detail: Yadier Molina still exists. As long as Yadi is playing, he’ll win the award almost out of the voters’ pure respect for Molina. That’s also why Jonathan Lucroy was never able to win a Gold Glove in Milwaukee.
Pina leads all catchers in pickoffs with seven. He’s second in the NL in Defensive WAR with 1.9. Also, Pina has 15 Defensive Runs Saved over 734.2 Innings, which is great. Over a whole season as a starter, that number projects to 24 Runs Saved, which is certainly well deserving of Gold Glove consideration. Pina has also thrown out 33% of would-be base stealers this year and teams are certainly cautious to run on him.
It’s going to be extremely difficult for Manny Pina to win the Gold Glove as long as both he and Yadier Molina are in the National League. Even though he won’t win it this year, Brewers fans have taken notice of their new starting catcher and at least they appreciate his skill. Perhaps the best Pina can hope for is a nomination as a finalist for the Gold Glove this year.
While some of these awards may be long-shots for the Milwaukee Brewers, this season has to largely be considered a success. The improvement from all of these players and coaches has been awesome to watch. And next year, there will be more attention brought to these guys and they’ve been able to put themselves on the map.