Milwaukee Brewers: The 2017 Crew In Review
As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look at 2017 as a whole for the Milwaukee Brewers. We look at what they did, and what it meant.
Man, what a year it has been! So many things have happened, so many things have changed, and only a few things remain the same. We look back on a year that has raised our expectations and has given new life to a fanbase that continues to be one of the best in baseball and a team that is coming out of the depths.
We signed Neftali Feliz to a $5.5 million contract during January. That turned out well (See June).
The Milwaukee Brewers claimed Jesus Aguilar off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Aguilar went on to knock 16 homers en route to a .265 batting average. Pitchers and catchers also reported during this month, thus kicking off the 2017 season.
The roster begins to shape up. We find out that Junior Guerra will be the Opening Day starter and Zach Davies will be the #2 simply because these two were the best pitchers on the team in 2016. Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, and Wily Peralta were the others in the rotation. Peralta was actually the #3 starter and Anderson was not originally going to be in the starting rotation. But Matt Garza got injured and Anderson gets in with Jimmy Nelson taking the final spot in the rotation.
This seems so weird to think of now. That Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson would be bringing up the back end of the starting rotation is just incomprehensible after this season.
Also, Scooter Gennett was went on waivers because of the emergence of Jonathan Villar in 2016. Jesus Aguilar’s performance in camp gave him a roster spot, leaving none for Gennett. The second baseman went to Cincinnati and he went on to have a pretty good season to say the least.
OPENING DAY! It’s the best day of the year, and should be a national holiday, but that’s just me. The Brewers had a little drama before the start of the season as the two players in camp that were battling for the last bullpen spot both did not get the job. Instead, the Crew signed Jared Hughes. Tyler Cravy and Rob Scahill were upset and Cravy even mentioned retiring because of it, although he later walked back those comments.
Also, in April, Eric Thames decided to destroy baseballs all month long. He popped 11 homers and coupled that with a .345 average. The free agent back from Korea was making his presence known. Most of that was at the expense of the pitching staff of the Cincinnati Reds, whom he hit eight of his 11 homers that month off of. The Cubs accused Thames of taking steroids and the Brewers didn’t take that lightly.
May was the month of some big changes for the Milwaukee Brewers. It was here that the Tommy Milone era mercifully came to an end. Here is where Wily Peralta finally moved to the bullpen and out of the rotation. It was here that Neftali Feliz was removed from the closer’s role because he was so ineffective. And it was here that the Crew unexpectedly took the lead in the NL Central.
Also, this month included the Mother Of All Comebacks on Mothers Day. Down 7-1 against the Mets, these Brewers battled back with some big hits to chip away at the lead. Manny Pina put himself in Brewers lore with his 8th inning home run to take the lead. It was actually in this game that Corey Knebel earned his first save in his new closer’s role.
It was also during this month that this very hot Brewers team went to Chicago for a three game series and only played two of them because of “rain”. There was no rain whatsoever on the radar for this game but the Cubs saw fit to cancel it anyways. Now the Milwaukee Brewers were furious with the Cubs and the fires of this rivalry are getting blazing hot at this point.
The Crew finished the month up 1.5 games in the division.
Record: 28-25. Monthly record: 15-12.
The Milwaukee Brewers held at least a share of the division lead every single day during the month of June. It was also time to say goodbye to Neftali Feliz as he was released. He finished with an ERA of 6.00 in a Brewers uniform and he gave up eight home runs in 27 innings with a walk rate of 5.0 BB/9. Chase Anderson was injured on a swing this month and was out until mid August.
Eric Thames provided a clutch walk off home run against the San Diego Padres and gave birth to the nickname “Manny Pineapple” for catcher Manny Pina. Brett Phillips was the first prospect call up of the season to try to add some juice to this lineup. Keon Broxton was in a major slump at the time, forcing this call up. Broxton’s batting average was at .273 on May 25 and had fallen all the way to .224 by June 10. Phillips was brought up to remedy that and he made an outstanding throw to cut down an attempted double in his debut.
Phillips wasn’t the only one to make his debut in June. Josh Hader and Lewis Brinson also were called up to the big leagues. Hader impressed enough to stay the rest of the season while Brinson and Phillips were up and down throughout the year.
Also, Stephen Vogt was claimed off waivers from Oakland and he was able to get in on the home run parade as soon as he got here. Jett Bandy was in a major slump and Vogt provided a boost to the lineup and a great clubhouse presence. The Brewers finished the month up two games in the division.
Overall Record: 43-39. Monthly record: 15-14.
The Milwaukee Brewers finished the first half hot, winning nine of their last 11 games before the break. They finished the half with a 50-41 record and were up 5.5 games on the Chicago Cubs for the division. On July 6th, the Crew drubbed the Cubs in Wrigley Field as the makeup date for the “rainout” game back in May. Man, that felt good!
Things were going extremely well and it was at this point that everyone, not just the players, believed that the Brewers could actually do this, they could actually knock off the reigning champion Chicago Cubs for the division title. Corey Knebel was the Crew’s only All-Star and Cubs manager Joe Maddon did not let him pitch in the ASG, instead opting for his own Wade Davis, who ended up blowing the game for the National League.
In the second half, the Brewers got out of the break slowly. The five and a half game lead that was built up was gone in a week as the Cubs got on a winning streak right as the Brewers went on a six game losing streak. The lead was gone by July 26, and they never got it back.
However, on July 26, the Brewers acquired Anthony Swarzak from the White Sox for Ryan Cordell. Swarzak was able to stop the bleeding in the bullpen and he did that along with Jeremy Jeffress who was acquired for practically nothing on July 31.
Keon Broxton was sent to the minors amidst another slump from the centerfielder. The Crew finished their only month with a below .500 record.
Overall Record: 55-52. Monthly Record: 12-13.
The Milwaukee Brewers got back to within a half a game of the Cubs for the division but another six game losing streak cost them that chance. Chase Anderson finally returned and a players only meeting sort of resurrected this team but it was a little too late.
Neil Walker was acquired this month and he provided a much needed boost. Eric Sogard had regressed and Jonathan Villar was still not playing that well. Corey Knebel was an absolute animal in August, saving 13 games and didn’t give up a run at all en route to winning the NL Reliever of the Month award.
The Crew had a big West Coast roadtrip that they finished with a 5-4 record on, including a big series win against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were on a historic hot streak at the time. There was talk of them finishing the season with 116 wins. But the Brewers series win started a massive cold streak for the Dodgers. There’s some pride in that.
The Brewers regained some of the momentum they lost in late July. However, they still lost a game in the standings on the month. Milwaukee ended up finishing 3.5 back of the Cubs.
Overall Record: 70-64. Monthly Record: 15-12.
The Brewers made several call ups for the expanded rosters. Junior Guerra, Taylor Williams, Wei Chung Wang, Brandon Woodruff, Jett Bandy, and Andrew Susac all received the call for the final month of the season.
This was a frustrating month with a lot of ups and downs. The Crew was swept by the cellar dwelling Cincinnati Reds ahead of a big series against the Cubs. With wins in either of the first two games, the Brewers would have made up ground on the Cubs. Down 3.5 games at the time, it was the perfect opportunity to strike, and they missed.
Then comes the actual series against the Cubs. They go in to Wrigley Field and absolutely stomp them, including a 15-2 win on the Saturday game. But these wins came at a cost. Jimmy Nelson slid awkwardly back into first base and injured his shoulder. That injury ended his season and will keep him out for a part of next year. Because of this, the “Johnny Wholestaff” method was applied to finish out the season. It worked for a little while but doomed the team down the stretch.
In the most important series in Miller Park in a long time, the Cubs came in for four games near the end of the month. The Milwaukee Brewers found themselves in a position where they had to win at least three of the games to stay competitive for the division. The first two games were extremely competitive and went extra innings, but the Brewers lost. In the third game, Travis Shaw wouldn’t let that happen again and instantly became the season’s hero in a dramatic walk off win.
With the Wild Card the only option remaining, they stayed close but a late blown lead against the Cardinals in the penultimate game of the season. The playoff hopes were over. It took 161 games but they did not make the playoffs.
Overall Record: 85-76. Monthly Record: 15-12
With only one game in the month of October, the Crew had a little fun with Orlando Arcia winning a National Anthem standoff. Not to mention Hernan Perez making another push to play all nine positions in a game. He started at third base. In the second inning, he switched with Eric Sogard at shortstop in hopes that Craig Counsell would let him play all nine. He made a tremendous diving play that inning but Counsell instructed him to go back to third and stay there.
Eric Sogard, who was on track to become a free agent, signed a one year, $2.4 million contract to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers. Several minor league players became free agents, including Wily Peralta and Rob Scahill.
Final Record: 86-76.
Mauricio Dubon, Jacob Nottingham, Freddy Peralta, and Marcos Diplan were all added to the 40 man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline. Also, Matt Garza, Anthony Swarzak, and Neil Walker all became free agents. Swarzak has gone to the Mets while Garza and Walker are still on the open market.
Jeremy Jeffress and Stephen Vogt both signed deals ahead of the non-tender deadline and avoiding arbitration. Jared Hughes was non tender decision and has since signed with the Reds.
The Winter Meetings brought a lot of rumors but none more significant than the fact the Crew was actively shopping Domingo Santana. The Winter Meetings didn’t bring anything transaction wise but it set the stage for the acquisitions of Yovani Gallardo and Jhoulys Chacin. Those are the big moves to date.
It’s been a wild and hectic year with so many ups and downs. Coming so close to the postseason and not making it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of Milwaukee Brewers players. They will be hungry for success next year and Brewers fans will be no different. The rebuild that is thought to bring at least another year or two of mediocrity took a major step forward this year.
More than anything, this team brought smiles to our faces and laughter to our hearts. The personality of this team is something that all Brewers fans have been able to enjoy. Now, with 2018 upon us, we look forward to what the future holds for this team.
Next: Understanding 2018 ZiPS Projections
Now that the 2017 season is in the rearview mirror we can all look forward to the next step. It will be finishing touches on the rebuild for the Milwaukee Brewers. The rebuild is entering its final stage.