Milwaukee Brewers: The small payroll with a big payoff

MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 21: Corey Knebel
MILWAUKEE, WI - JULY 21: Corey Knebel /

It is no question that the Milwaukee Brewers surprised a lot of people in 2017.

The team seemed to come out of nowhere to contend with the, at the time, reigning champion Chicago Cubs for the division title. However, the Milwaukee Brewers seemed to do it with their star Ryan Braun as more of a part time player. Meaning they relied on little known, and inexpensive talent.

Whether the term sits well with you or not, the Brewers are a small market team. They need to rely on low budget, high reward talent more than other teams around the league. It is just the way things go. In 2017, they showed that they can do it.

Sportstrac ranks out the most value a team gets from their players based on their payroll. The 2017 payroll for the Crew sat at $83,488,679, the lowest in the league. That being said they sit fourth in value.

On the team list they are the only team in the top 10 who did not appear in the playoffs, except for the Tampa Bay Rays at number nine. The same team is the only other payroll under 100 million in the top ten as well.

The stat used to measure this is called Average True Value Statistic(TVS). The Milwaukee Brewers posted a TVS of 89.59. They were beat out by only Diamondbacks(94.73), Indians(97.59), and Astros(97.86).

So the question now is who got them to this point?

Corey Knebel

Knebel takes the top spot on the team with a TVS of 99.34. He was a truly dominant force closing out games for only 538,900 AAV.

The reliever stepped up to be the only player named to the All-Star game from the Milwaukee Brewers. He truly stood out at a discount. But, Knebel stands to get a pay increase through arbitration over the next few seasons.

Chase Anderson

The next highest TVS belongs to Anderson with 94.52. Chase “The Ace” truly emerged this season to be reliable at the top of the rotation. Enough to be offered an extension. However in 2017, he made just under 2.5 million.

His extension costs a bit more, but not too much. An injury slowed Anderson down a little bit. But he still proved to be more than worth the money. It seems like the Brewers found a reliable starting arm to lead the charge.

Jimmy Nelson

Nelson posted a TVS of 90.35. That is the third highest number among pitchers, and fifth overall. But a shortened season cut off his value rating early. Without the injury, who knows where this number could be.

Considering Nelson’s AAV of 547,000 dollars, that is a valuable ‘what if’ scenario. Even with 28 year old set to miss a chunk of next season, he could still be worth what he is owed. And the injury should lessen his overall cost.

Zach Davies

Of the starters, Davies comes in third. While still productive, he sits at a 85.56 TVS. He did post a better production per game rate than Nelson, however. Davies AAV of 546,200 dollars turned out great with how many wins he secured.

Not to mention his Gold Glove nomination. As a pitcher that is not as important, but it still adds value into his production. Davies will hit arbitration in 2019, leaving under team control for the upcoming season.

Anthony Swarzak

While the heights of Knebel are hard to match for a reliever, Swarzak made an effort at it posting a 89.07 TVS. After being traded for at the deadline, he really solidified the gap between the starter and the closer. He gave the team a solid chance to keep the lead they had.

Swarzak only cost the Milwaukee Brewers $900,000 for the time they had him. But, as a 2018 free agent it will cost more to bring him back. He may be worth the money, it is just a question of how much that will be.

Travis Shaw

The top performing hitter was Shaw with a TVS of 92.66. This leaves him third overall on the team. He was a surprise performance after coming to the team during Winter Meetings a year ago. But with a cost of $544,400, the Crew got more than their moneys worth.

Sportstrac says that Shaw is under team control next year and reaches arbitration in 2019. If he can continue to perform as well as he did in 2017, then the Milwaukee Brewers will be a valuable, cost effective team for a few more years.

Domingo Santana

Sunday, as Santana is affectionately known, posted a TVS of 90.52. Another extremely helpful player, who played above his contract. Making only 542,200 dollars in 2017, he hit the cover off of the ball. Along the same path as Shaw, Santana will be under team control in 2018 and reach arbitration in 2019.

Posting the fourth highest TVS on the team is great to have in the outfield. Especially one transitioning away from aging star Ryan Braun, and entering the area of youth like Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips.

Eric Thames

The lowest number by far on this list, but still sitting at a comfortable eighth higest on the team is Thames with a TVS of 72.20. This would be higher, but his contract is bigger. He made four million last year. In 2018 he is set to make five million, then six million the year after. There is a club option in 2020 for seven and a half million.

Thames was another Winter Meetings surprise last year who turned out to be a genius move. The only hope is that he becomes less streaky at the plate, and then his value will increase.

What does all this mean?

It means that in Stearns we trust. And it means that Craig Counsell is doing a great job. It is hard to completely succeed with guys who are cost effective. But the aforementioned pair got the most out of the players.

Next: Lack of left handed pitching is a concern

Being a small market team means outsmarting the bigger teams. David does beat Goliath sometimes, and this is how it happens between the foul lines. The Milwaukee Brewers need to get this type of value again next season if they plan to dethrone the Cubs atop the NL Central.